Premier League teams chasing record in Champions League
PARIS (AP) — A look at what’s happening around the Champions League this week:
PREMIER LEAGUE DOMINANCE
The Premier League is on the verge of having five teams in the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time. It has been four years since four English teams made it that far, but the additional qualification spot earned by Manchester United’s Europa League triumph last season created the possibility of an English record.
United has four wins from four games in Group A and a draw at Basel on Wednesday will be enough to secure qualification and top spot.
Also boasting a perfect record, and already through, is Manchester City. A win at home to Feyenoord on Tuesday will secure Pep Guardiola’s team top spot in Group F if Shakhtar fails to defeat Napoli.
Chelsea has rallied from a humbling 3-0 loss in Rome with two impressive league wins and can now get its European campaign back on track at Qarabag on Wednesday in Group C. A win in Azerbaijan will guarantee the Blues a place in the Round of 16.
Liverpool scored 10 goals in its two games against Maribor to go top of Group E and a win at Sevilla on Tuesday would guarantee Juergen Klopp’s side advances.
Tottenham is already through and a win at troubled Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday will see Spurs finish above Real Madrid at the top of Group H.
— By Sam Johnston in London.
How do you stop a team that has scored 60 goals in 17 games?
That’s the dilemma facing Scottish champion Celtic as it prepares for a daunting trip to play Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.
PSG is unbeaten this season and comfortably leads the French league. In the Champions League, PSG has won its four Group B games while scoring 17 goals and conceding none.
Having lost the corresponding fixture 5-0 at home, Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic side has every reason to fear an even worse humiliation, particularly since top scorer Edinson Cavani has scored 19 goals in 17 games.
Worse still for Celtic: PSG rested 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe against Nantes on Saturday, meaning the pacey forward will be fresh to attack the Celtic defense as he did in Glasgow.
How Monaco must wish it had kept Mbappe, rather than selling him to PSG for 180 million euros ($216 million).
He combined with striker Radamel Falcao as they helped Monaco win the league and reach the semifinals of the Champions League last season.
Having thrilled Europe with an attacking style of football, Monaco is last in Group G and on the verge of going out. To prevent this huge embarrassment, Monaco must win its last two matches while hoping for favorable results elsewhere. First up for Monaco is a home game against Leipzig on Tuesday.
— By Jerome Pugmire in Paris.
BAYERN ON THE JUPP
Already through to the last 16 of Europe’s top club competition, Bayern travels to Anderlecht for Wednesday’s game knowing it will most likely finish behind Paris Saint-Germain in Group B.
Bayern is on a roll since Jupp Heynckes returned as coach, with eight wins in eight games across all competitions. In just five Bundesliga games, the 72-year-old Heynckes has overseen a five-point deficit turn into a six-point lead.
Bayern was able to conserve energy in its 3-0 win over Augsburg on Saturday and Heynckes is taking a holistic approach as he primes the side for more decisive battles after the winter break.
Heynckes has been here before. Bayern won the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup treble in his last stint in charge in 2013.
— By Ciaran Fahey in Berlin.
It’s a decisive week for crisis-hit Borussia Dortmund. Yet to win in the Champions League this season, the team needs to beat Group H leader Tottenham at home to maintain any slim hope of progressing to the last 16.
Dortmund is also looking to Saturday’s Ruhr derby against Schalke in the Bundesliga, where another defeat might be the beginning of the end for Peter Bosz as coach.
Even Europa League qualification is far from certain for Dortmund, which has slumped in the Bundesliga to fifth, having previously led the league. Five points clear of Bayern Munich last month, Dortmund is now nine behind the leader.
“At some point we’ll manage to turn things around and pick up victories again,” Dortmund midfielder Andre Schuerrle said. “Then lots of things will get easier for us.”
— By Ciaran Fahey in Berlin.
17-GAME UNBEATEN RUN
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Sevilla will be aiming to seal their spots in the knockout stage with a game to spare.
Barcelona takes a run of 17 games without a loss to Juventus on Wednesday and needs just a point to win Group D.
Even if Lionel Messi’s team loses, it will still advance if Sporting Lisbon fails to beat Olympiakos.
Real Madrid will book its spot in the last 16 if it wins at Cypriot team APOEL on Tuesday. The reigning European champions are struggling, however, with only one win in their last four matches overall. Madrid failed to beat Tottenham in either of its most recent Champions League matches, leaving it in position to finish Group H in second unless Spurs stumble.
Sevilla hosts Liverpool on Tuesday and trails the visitors by just one point at the top of Group E. Sevilla can advance with a win.
Atletico Madrid is the only one of the Spanish quartet staring at an early exit. With three draws and a loss, Diego Simeone’s squad has to beat Roma on Wednesday to have a real hope of catching the Italian team or Chelsea for the two qualifying spots in Group C.
— By Joseph Wilson in Barcelona
After a difficult week for club and country, Giorgio Chiellini is looking to the Champions League to boost morale and is confident Juventus will return to its best against Barcelona in Group D.
Chiellini played in both legs of the playoff loss to Sweden which resulted in Italy failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.
While teammates Andrea Barzagli and Gianluigi Buffon were rested after that disappointment, Chiellini also played in Juventus’s surprise 3-2 loss at Sampdoria on Sunday.
“This match has to make us reflect. If we want to win, technical skills are not enough, we need something more and everyone has to give that,” Chiellini said. “We have been missing something so far this season.”
— By Daniella Matar in Milan.