MATCHDAY: Carrick coaches United, Xavi’s Barca faces Benfica
A look at what’s happening in Tuesday’s Champions League games:
After debuting as Barcelona’s coach with a much-needed win in the Spanish league at the weekend, Xavi Hernández turns his focus to the Champions League with a decisive match against Benfica. The home victory over Espanyol ended the team’s four-game winless streak in the league, and another on Tuesday will allow the club to clinch a spot in the knockout round of the Champions League and avoid its first group-stage elimination in almost two decades. Barcelona is two points ahead of third-place Benfica with two games left. Group leader Bayern — which has already qualified — travels to Dynamo Kyiv without seven first-team players, who have either tested positive for the coronavirus or are isolating because of contact with a positive case. The seven include midfielder Joshua Kimmich and forward Serge Gnabry, while defender Dayot Upamecano is serving a one-game suspension.
Manchester United heads to Villarreal with an interim coach and a chance to qualify for the knockout stage with a game to spare. Both teams are on seven points, two ahead of third-place Atalanta. A win would guarantee United advances, while a draw would also be enough if the match between Atalanta and Young Boys also ends in a draw. United will be led by Michael Carrick, who is in charge on a temporary basis following the firing of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Sunday. Villarreal will be without Gerard Moreno while other players are listed as doubtful because of injuries, including Arnaut Danjuma and Yeremy Pino. On a six-match unbeaten run in Serie A that included a 5-2 win at the weekend, high-scoring Atalanta is on an upswing ahead of its match at Young Boys, which is in last place on three points.
Salzburg leads the group and is one win away from becoming the first Austrian club to reach the last 16 since Sturm Graz in 2000-01. Salzburg could have secured its place last time out but lost to Wolfsburg and now has another chance against French champion Lille. Jonathan Ikone and Benjamin Andre are missing for Lille through suspension. Needing to avoid defeat at home to keep its hopes alive, Sevilla is unlikely to count on Erik Lamela and Suso for the match against Wolfsburg. Both players are nursing injuries and didn’t train with the rest of the squad the day before the match at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium. Sevilla is last in the group with three points, two behind Wolfsburg and Lille, and has yet to win. Wolfsburg is missing goalkeeper Koen Casteels after he tested positive for the coronavirus.
Chelsea needs one point at home to first-place Juventus to advance alongside the already-qualified Italian team with a game to spare. A draw would also suit Juve because that would clinch top spot. Jorginho should be fit for Chelsea after coming off with cramp in the 3-0 win over Leicester on Saturday that kept the team in first place in the Premier League, while Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner could return after injury. Paulo Dybala is still regaining form after injury and will likely start on the bench at Stamford Bridge for Juventus, which beat Chelsea 1-0 in September. Zenit St. Petersburg heads to Malmo, which has no points and no goals after four games, needing a draw to be assured of a third-place finish and a spot in the playoffs for the Europa League knockout stage.
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