Barcelona, AC Milan among teams seeking last-16 spots in CL
A look at what’s at stake in the final round of Champions League matches in the group stage, with five last-16 places up for grabs and three group winners still to be determined:
Barcelona’s first Champions League campaign without Lionel Messi in nearly two decades may come to an end in the group stage if it doesn’t find a way to beat Bayern Munich on Wednesday. It would be the first time since the 2003-04 season that the Catalan club didn’t play in the knockout stage of the competition. Barcelona is second to Bayern in Group E, and two points ahead of third-place Benfica. But a draw or a loss in Germany would allow Benfica to advance with a home win against already eliminated Dynamo Kyiv. Atlético Madrid is another Spanish club in danger of not advancing, as it sits last in Group B. It has to win at second-place Porto on Tuesday and hope that AC Milan draws or loses at home against group-winner Liverpool. Villarreal can advance in Group F on Wednesday if it avoids defeat at Atalanta, which will move on with a win. In Group G, Lille, Salzburg, Sevilla and Wolfsburg can still advance, with Lille and Salzburg needing draws. Lille is at Wolfsburg and Salzburg plays Sevilla.
Titleholder Chelsea and 13-time European champion Real Madrid are among those looking to clinch first place in their groups, which is more likely to secure an easier match in the last 16. Both teams have secured a last-16 spot. Chelsea is tied on points with Juventus in Group H and is ahead courtesy of a superior head-to-head record, so a win at Zenit St. Petersburg on Wednesday will guarantee top spot for the defending champions. Juventus finishes group play at home to Malmo, which won the Swedish league on Saturday to retain its title. Madrid, meanwhile, hosts Inter Milan Tuesday in a match between two teams who have already secured a last-16 spot and who can both still win Group D. Madrid leads Inter by two points so a point will be enough for Carlo Ancelotti’s team. Then there’s the intriguing Group G finale on Wednesday, where all four teams — Lille, Salzburg, Sevilla and Wolfsburg — can still finish first.
EUROPA LEAGUE CHASERS
Club Brugge, Leipzig and Young Boys have no chance of reaching the last 16 but they can still join Borussia Dortmund, Sheriff and Zenit St. Petersburg in the playoffs for the Europa League knockout phase. Club Brugge and Leipzig are fighting for third place in Group A behind group winner Manchester City and runner-up Paris Saint-Germain. Leipzig will host Man City on Tuesday in an empty stadium due to coronavirus restrictions and with an interim coach in charge after deciding to part ways with American Jesse Marsch on Sunday. Marsch himself missed the team’s last three games due to his own COVID-19 infection amid an outbreak at the club, but he paid the price for three successive Bundesliga defeats. PSG hosts Club Brugge in the other group game. Both Leipzig and Brugge have four points. Swiss team Young Boys only has a slim chance of finishing third in Group F, needing a win at group winner Manchester United on Wednesday and hoping for a favor from Villarreal at Atalanta.
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