NOW OR NEVER FOR CHAMPIONS LAST-16 HOPEFULS
Final opportunity for teams in the group stage to advance in Europe’s prestigious club competition
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.