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Barca, Milan seek spots in Champions League last-16

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LONDON: Barcelona’s first Champions League campaign without Lionel Messi in nearly two decades may come to an end in the group stage if they don’t find a way to beat Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

It would be the first time since the 2003-04 season that the Catalans don’t play in the knockout stage of the competition.

Barca are second to Bayern in Group ‘E’, and two points ahead of third-placed Benfica. But a draw or a loss in Germany would allow Benfica to advance with a home win against already eliminated Dynamo Kiev.

Atletico Madrid are another Spanish side in danger of not advancing, as they sit last in Group ‘B’.

They have to win at second-placed Porto on Tuesday and hope that Milan draw or lose at home against group-winners Liverpool.

Villarreal can advance in Group ‘F’ on Wednesday if they avoid defeat at Atalanta, who will move on with a win.

In Group ‘G’, Lille, Salzburg, Sevilla and VfL Wolfsburg can still advance, with Lille and Salzburg needing draws. Lille are at Wolfsburg and Salzburg play Sevilla.

Titleholders Chelsea and 13-time European champions 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.

Chelsea are tied on points with Juventus in Group ‘H’ and are 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 finish group play at home to Malmo, who won the Swedish league on Saturday.

Real, meanwhile, host 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’. Real lead Inter by two points so a point will be enough for Carlo Ancelotti’s team.

Club Brugge and RB Leipzig have no chance of reaching the last 16 but they can still join Borussia Dortmund, Sheriff and Zenit in the playoffs for the Europa League knockout phase.

Club Brugge and Leipzig are fighting for third place in Group ‘A’ behind group winners Manchester City and runners-up Paris St Germain.

Leipzig will host 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.

PSG host Brugge in the other group game. Both Leipzig and Brugge have four points.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2021

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