Champions League preview: Man City await Barca as big guns eye next round
AFP Sports looks ahead to Tuesday’s Champions League action as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City host Barcelona with a number of sides, including the Spanish champions, looking to seal a place in the next round (all kick-offs 1945 GMT unless stated):
Ludogorets Razgrad (BUL) v Arsenal (ENG)
At Sofia, Bulgaria
Mesut Ozil scored his first professional hat-trick in Arsenal’s 6-0 whitewash of Ludogorets last time out. With Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez both grabbing braces at the weekend and Theo Walcott on a purple vein of form, the Gunners should have way too much for the Bulgarian champions. Plucky in their 3-1 home defeat to PSG, Ludogorets took a point at Basel and scored 15 goals in qualifying. But even if Arsenal fail to win here, they will qualify for the next round if PSG win in Basel.
Basel (SUI) v Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)
At Basel, Switzerland
Unai Emery’s PSG are starting to understand what the Spaniard wants tactically and they boast up front the red-hot Edinson Cavani, the Uruguayan striker who scored his 10th league goal of the season in a 1-0 win at Lille on Friday, where Angel Di Maria and Lucas showed promising fluidity around the targetman. A victory in Basel assures PSG of qualification, but Basel are unbeaten at home this season.
Besiktas (TUR) v Napoli (ITA), kick-off 1745
Turkish champions Besiktas will go top of Group B if they follow up their 3-2 away win over Italians Napoli with a home win over them at their new stadium, where they have won 13 of their past 14 league fixtures. Euro 2016 star Ricardo Quaresma continues to impress for Besiktas and his free-kick and Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar’s brace brought their thrilling victory in Italy. For the visitors Spain’s Jose Callejon is the man to watch after he scored a seventh goal of the season in a 2-1 Italian league loss to Juventus on Saturday. Napoli can book a place in the next round if they win and Benfica draw with Dynamo Kyiv.
Benfica (POR) v Dynamo Kyiv (UKR)
After a draw with Besiktas and a thumping at Napoli, Benfica got their campaign back on track with a 2-0 win at Dynamo in the last round of matches. The Portuguese champions and league leaders are on astonishing form, especially at their Stadium of Light stronghold. Knocked out narrowly in the quarter-finals by Bayern Munich last season, Benfica know a home win will place them nicely for another second-round spot. Kyiv got a confidence-boosting league win at the weekend but with a single point so far their Champions League survival depends on a result in Portugal for Serhiy Rebrov’s men — which looks a very tall order.
Manchester City (ENG) v Barcelona (ESP)
Lionel Messi scored three as Pep Guardiola’s return to Barcelona went belly up with a 4-0 defeat two weeks ago. On the bright side a six-match winless streak was snapped by a 4-0 league win over West Brom on Saturday as star striker Sergio Aguero scored twice. Barcelona only need a point to qualify for the next round but with Luis Suarez, Neymar and Messi about to be unleashed on the blue half of a Manchester side who have not lost at home for 12 games, this is Tuesday’s must-watch game.
Borussia Moenchengladbach (GER) v Celtic (SCO)
At Moenchengladbach, Germany
Lose here and Celtic are out, but the Scots — led by their passionate Northern Irish coach Brendan Rodgers — will be just as concerned to avoid anything like the 7-0 whipping they took at Barcelona in their last Champions League away game. The Germans beat Celtic 2-0 away and will be hoping Barcelona beat City in the other Group C game to steal a march on the Mancunians. Andre Schubert’s men have gone four league games without a win. In contrast, Celtic are on a 13-game unbeaten run in Scotland and striker Moussa Dembele has nine league goals so far.
Atletico Madrid (ESP) v Rostov (RUS)
With a mean defence and a fearsome attack featuring French duo Antoine Griezmann and Kevin Gameiro, a draw with Russians Rostov could qualify impressive Atletico Madrid for the next round. A win will certainly do it. A solitary Yannick Carrasco goal gave Atletico a narrow win in Russia two weeks ago and Carrasco scored twice on Saturday as his team breezed past Malaga, Gameiro bagging two as well. Diego Simeone’s men are top of the group with three wins including a celebrated Bayern Munich scalp. Visiting Spain for the first time, Rostov have a single point from a 2-2 draw at PSV so far.
PSV Eindhoven (NED) v Bayern Munich (GER)
At Eindhoven, Netherlands
PSV’s Champions League future depends on avoiding defeat here while Bayern can qualify with a win should Rostov lose in Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti’s side beat PSV 4-1 two weeks ago. Robert Lewandowski netted twice in a 3-1 win at Augsburg on Saturday while Dutch winger Arjen Robben was outstanding with two assists and a goal. Bayern are second in Group D, three points behind Atletico, who they host on December 6 having already lost 1-0 in Spain. Eindhoven are bottom of the table with one point from their three games.