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The magic number

Another Lionel Messi hat-trick lit up the Champions League yet again as Barcelona and AC Milan qualified for the last 16 with time to spare on Tuesday although it is APOEL Nicosia who are fast becoming the talk of the group stages. Numbers game

sports Updated: Nov 03, 2011 01:36 IST

Another Lionel Messi hat-trick lit up the Champions League yet again as Barcelona and AC Milan qualified for the last 16 with time to spare on Tuesday although it is APOEL Nicosia who are fast becoming the talk of the group stages.


Premier League sides Chelsea and Arsenal still have work to do to reach the knockout phase after draws against Racing Genk and Olympique Marseille respectively when victories could have sealed their passage out of their groups. http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/031111/03-11-11-metro20.jpg

Unstoppable Argentine Messi gave Barcelona the lead with his 200th goal for the club and his 201st and 202nd followed as they beat 10-man Viktoria Plzen 4-0 in Prague to move top of Group H above Milan who were held 1-1 at BATE Borisov.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was on target for Milan and, although the Serie A side conceded a second-half goal from the penalty spot, Barca's result ensured the two giants of European football will be in the knockout rounds come February.

Gunners misfire
Arsenal, whose season has recovered after a terrible start, left prolific Dutch striker Robin van Persie among the substitutes and his 30 minute cameo failed to prevent them from labouring to a 0-0 draw against Marseille in Group F.

A home victory would have put Arsenal through but a draw means both teams should still qualify. Borussia Dortmund kept alive their hopes of a top two place with a 1-0 home victory against Greek side Olympiakos Piraeus.

"We wanted to qualify tonight, but we were not at our sharpest," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.

Kill the game
Chelsea's woes continued after back-to-back Premier League defeats and accusations that captain John Terry racially abused Queen's Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.

Victory in Genk looked a formality when Ramires gave them the lead but a missed penalty by David Luiz gave the Belgium club hope and Jelle Vossen equalised after the bhttp://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/031111/03-11-11-metro20b.jpgreak to give his side their second point in the group.

Chelsea began the night eyeing a win which could have sealed their progress to the last 16, depending on other results, but things look less secure now for the London club who have eight points, two in front of Bayer Leverkusen who lost 3-1 in Valencia.

Brazilian Jonas scored after 12 seconds for Valencia, the second quickest goal in the Champions League. Leverkusen host Chelsea in the next round of group matches. "We could have put the game beyond their reach. We had chances to kill the game off," keeper Petr Cech told Sky Sports. "I don't think there was a hangover (from Saturday's 5-3 home defeat by Arsenal). We now have to qualify the hard way."