Dortmund hopes hang in balance
Injury-struck Barcelona can ensure they finish top of Champions League Group H with just a point when they travel to face Ajax on Tuesday.Gerardo Martino’s men have already qualified for the last-16.sports Updated: Nov 26, 2013 01:47 IST
Injury-struck Barcelona can ensure they finish top of Champions League Group H with just a point when they travel to face Ajax on Tuesday.Gerardo Martino’s men have already qualified for the last-16.
The Catalans will be boosted by the return of Xavi Hernandez after he sat out the Granada match with a hamstring problem. However, Adriano has joined Jordi Alba and Dani Alves on the sidelines, leaving Martin Montoya as the only senior full-back available to Martino.
Despite his side’s injury problems, Martino has still selected a strong squad and the likes of Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Alexis Sanchez and Neymar are all expected to start.
Ajax, meanwhile, still have aspirations of joining Barca in the last-16 as they lie third in the group, but just a point behind AC Milan with the Dutch champions still to travel to Milan on matchday six.
However, Frank de Boer’s men could be without two of their more influential attacking players as Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Siem de Jong are doubtful after picking up injuries on international duty last week.
The German bashing
Borussia Dortmund’s European season hangs in the balance as last season’s Champions League runners-up prepare to host Italy’s Napoli on Tuesday with victory being the only option for the Germans.
Injury-hit and disappointed following Saturday’s 3-0 Bundesliga defeat to rivals Bayern Munich, coach Juergen Klopp’s team need to win their last two Champions League Group F games against Napoli and Olympique Marseille to preserve their chances of reaching the knockout stage.
Any other result could mean a surprise exit for a team that dazzled Europe but has failed to match results this campaign.
“We are lacking in determination, a sense of purpose.
“Nothing has been decided yet, neither in the league nor in Europe. But Tuesday’s game is more crucial than against Bayern,” said Dortmund keeper Roman Weidenfeller.
Dortmund are in third place in the group on six points, three behind leaders Arsenal and Napoli. Napoli have already beaten the Germans 2-1 in the first leg in Italy back in September.
Arsenal’s path into the Champions League knockout rounds looks to be a safe one with a home game against rock bottom Olympique Marseille but they are taking nothing for granted. The Londoners top Group F with nine points from four matches.
Should Arsenal beat Marseille and Dortmund fail to defeat Napoli, Arsene Wenger’s side would be guaranteed to qualify with a game to spare. Midfielder Santi Cazorla has warned against complacency.“The main problem I see is everyone thinks it’s going to be an easy game for us to win,” said the Spaniard.
Chelsea a point away
Chelsea travel to Switzerland to face FC Basel knowing that a point will be enough to seal their place in the last 16. Last year, as reigning European champions, the Blues were eliminated in the group stage, but while they have not always convinced since the return to the dugout of Jose Mourinho, they have seized control of Group E since a shock home defeat to Basel in September.