Champions League: Arsenal, Chelsea look to avoid premature exits
Arsenal’s perfect record of qualifying for the knockout stage of the Uefa Champions League will be put to test with the Gunners knowing they have to beat Olympiakos -- either by two goals or by scoring at least three times -- to pip the Greeks to second place.football Updated: Dec 08, 2015 16:10 IST
Arsenal’s perfect record of qualifying for the knockout stage of the Uefa Champions League will be put to test with the Gunners knowing they have to beat Olympiakos -- either by two goals or by scoring at least three times -- to pip the Greeks to second place.
Arsene Wenger’s men will be on the back foot with midfielder Santi Cazorla ruled out for up to four months with a knee injury. However, Aaron Ramsey, who scored a late third in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Sunderland, is confident Arsenal can keep their streak intact.
“It was never easy after the start (to the group) we had but we have done well to come back into the position that we find ourselves in and it is in our hands -- we know what we have to do,” the Welshman told the club’s website.
In Group E, Bayer Leverkusen need to beat runaway group winners Barcelona to stand any chance of advancing to the last 16. The Germans would then still need Roma to drop points against BATE Borisov in the group’s other game to reach the knockout rounds. Leverkusen’s recent form has been poor, though, as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Hertha Berlin over the weekend, leaving Roger Schmidt’s side with just one win in seven matches in all competitions. Barca, meanwhile, were held 1-1 at Valencia in La Liga, snapping their six-match winning run as their lead in Spain was trimmed to just two points.
There is little at stake in Dinamo Zagreb’s final-day clash against German champions Bayern Munich, but the Croatian side should brace themselves for a potential Bayern backlash in the wake of Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Borussia Moenchengladbach. The loss was Bayern’s first in the Bundesliga this season although Pep Guardiola welcomed back Franck Ribery, who scored a late consolation on his return from a nine-month injury lay-off. Zagreb, who were pummelled 5-0 in Munich, will hope to end their campaign on a high after four straight defeats consigned them to a fourth-place finish.
On the other hand, the pressure is on Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea players to avoid an early exit in Europe, even more so after the Blues were condemned to a stunning 1-0 home loss against Bournemouth at the weekend which left them just two points clear of the drop zone. Chelsea go into their final group game top of the pile on 10 points, level with Porto, and will go through as group winners with a victory while a draw would see them advance as runners-up.
“It’s an important week for us. On Wednesday we have to win to make sure we are first and qualified. That will be a big boost for the team as well,” said goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who returned to the line-up at the weekend after three months out. Porto’s setback against Dynamo Kiev on matchday five has left the Portuguese requiring a win to guarantee qualification. A draw could also be enough to go through, in first as well, but only if Kiev don’t win.
First Published: Dec 08, 2015 16:09 IST