NOW OR NEVER FOR CHAM­PI­ONS LAST-16 HOPE­FULS

Fi­nal op­por­tu­nity for teams in the group stage to ad­vance in Europe’s pres­ti­gious club com­pe­ti­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE in Paris

Holder Bay­ern Mu­nich, Manch­ester United, Manch­ester City, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Ger­main, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona are al­ready through to the Cham­pi­ons League round of 16. Eight other places are up for grabs when the groups end on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day. Ben­fica, though, must bet­ter the re­sult of Greek side Olympiakos if it is to reach the last 16. Ben­fica does have a bit of a hold over the French vis­i­tor in that it has beaten it in Lis­bon on the past two oc­ca­sions it has played there. Much could de­pend on what sort of side PSG coach Lau­rent Blanc se­lects, whether he opts to rest sev­eral first team regulars or throws them all in as the side seeks to bet­ter its over­all points haul of 15 — it presently has 13 — from last year’s group stage. Lis­bon is host­ing the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal but it is un­likely Ben­fica will em­u­late Bay­ern Mu­nich in ap­pear­ing in a fi­nal on home turf given its qual­i­fi­ca­tion is out of its hands. The Greek side should log­i­cally seal its place in the knock­out stages at home to a Bel­gian out­fit which has gar­nered just one point from its five games — al­beit a draw with PSG — and which the host trounced 3-0 in Bel­gium with Kostas Mitroglou scor­ing a hat-trick. Coached by for­mer Span­ish great Michel, who was part of the Real Madrid team that over­turned a 3-0 deficit in a UEFA Cup sec­ond-round clash in the 1984-85 cam­paign to win 6-1 in the re­turn leg, Olympiakos is bid­ding to reach the last 16 for the first time since 2009-10. An­der­lecht will fin­ish bot­tom of its group for the sev­enth suc­ces­sive sea­son it has com­peted in the com­pe­ti­tion.

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