Champions League big guns target last 16 places


Berlin, Nov. 21, (GNA/dpa) – Holders Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Juventus are among the Champions League favourites who could book their places in the last 16 in this week’s penultimate round of group-stage matches.

     Also seeking to seal places in the knock-out stage in matches Tuesday and Wednesday are Benfica, Napoli, Besiktas, Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, Leicester City, Porto and Sevilla.

     Five teams have already qualified for the last 16 – Arsenal and Paris St Germain, who play each other Wednesday for Group A top spot, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

     Real are second in Group F, two points behind Dortmund, and go to Sporting Lisbon on Tuesday in high spirits after Saturday’s 3-0 romp at neighbours Atletico.

     Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored all three goals against Atletico, comes up against his former club still needing two more goals to reach his century in UEFA club competitions.

     Veteran central defenders Pepe and Sergio Ramos are still doubtful, but Sporting should not be rubbing their hands in anticipation, given the impressive displays turned in by youngsters Nacho and Raphael Varane against Atletico.

     Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Alvaro Morata are both out, though Karim Benzema could return to the fray.

     Dortmund meanwhile hope to keep top spot and could welcome back Marco Reus following injury for the visit of Legia Warsaw.

     Sevilla take on visiting Juventus on Tuesday needing a draw in a battle for top spot in Group H, while the Serie A champions could lose and go through depending on Lyon’s result at Dinamo Zagreb.

     Group C leaders Barcelona are at bottom team Celtic Wednesday with Lionel Messi expected back in action after a stomach bug as they seek a win to guarantee their advance.

     Manchester City meanwhile are at Borussia Moenchengladbach in the group knowing they will qualify with a win.

     Gladbach are still in contention, three points behind City, but will now likely have to beat both City and Barcelona away.

     Atletico will be trying to pick themselves up from their derby defeat when they greet PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, three points clear of Bayern Munich atop Group D.

     Bayern entertain Rostov with coach Carlo Ancelotti likely to rotate his team following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Dortmund.

     Leicester need a draw against visiting Brugge to confirm their place in the last 16, while Porto will be through with a win over Copenhagen.

     Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri is confident side can bounce back from a sixth Premier League defeat of the season.

     “All our frustrations we have to use for Club Brugge,” Ranieri said.

     Tottenham need all three points at Group E leaders Monaco – who need a draw to progress – and will be hoping Bayer Leverkusen slip up against CSKA Moscow.

    “It is a game we must win against Monaco,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said after the weekend win over West Ham.

     “It’s for that reason we need to have the mentality and feeling that we can go to Monaco and win.”

     The Bundesliga side will meanwhile be through if they avoid defeat and Tottenham lose.

    The battle for Group B continues with Besiktas meeting Benfica in a key duel while Napoli host bottom side Dynamo Kiev.    Among several permutations the top three all have hopes of sealing qualification, while Kiev have only a remote chance of progressing.


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