Barca sharpen knives on mas­sive Euro­pean night

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

PARIS: AFP Sports pre­views to­day’s Cham­pi­ons League action with Pep Guardi­ola tak­ing Manch­ester City to Barcelona.

GROUP A At Paris Paris Saint Ger­main (FRA) v Basel (SUI)

As coach of Sevilla last sea­son Unai Emery beat Basel on the way to win­ning the Europa League. Now his cur­rent charges, French cham­pi­ons Paris Saint-Ger­main, host them in con­fi­dent mood thanks to Uruguayan striker Edin­son Ca­vani - en­joy­ing a pur­ple patch of 15 goals in his last 11 games - and Brazil­ian play­maker Lu­cas. Both scored in a week­end win. Basel’s Ice­land mid­fielder Birkir Bjar­na­son scored in his last match in Paris, al­beit in a 5-2 de­feat at the Stade de France against hosts France in the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Eu­ros. The Swiss cham­pi­ons warmed up with a 3-0 win over Luzern and can wel­come back play­ers whose legs were saved at the week­end.

At London Arse­nal (ENG) v Lu­do­gorets Raz­grad (BUL)

Arse­nal look a solid bet to con­tinue their Cham­pi­ons League un­beaten start when they host Bul­gar­ian out­fit Lu­do­gorets Raz­grad. The Gun­ners were un­for­tu­nate not to win in Paris be­fore form striker Theo Wal­cott scored a brace to beat Basel. Wal­cott scored twice again this week­end as a gritty Arse­nal dug in for a 10-man 3-2 win over Swansea that saw them climb level with Man City at the top of the Premier League. One note of cau­tion for the hosts is that Lu­do­gorets took the lead in both their games, a 1-1 draw with the Swiss and a 3-1 home de­feat by PSG. The Bul­gar­ian cham­pi­ons are also on a seven game un­beaten run away from home.

Group B At Naples, Italy Napoli (ITA) v Be­sik­tas (TUR)

Napoli will be­come the first team to qual­ify for the last 16 if they notch up their third straight win and Dy­namo Kiev draw with Ben­fica. A su­perb open­ing 4-2 win over Ben­fica fol­lowed by a 2-1 de­feat of Dy­namo in Ukraine left coach Mau­r­izio Sarri’s side coast­ing to­wards the knock­out stages. Arkaduisz Mi­lik, signed as a re­place­ment for striker Gon­zalo Higuain, has scored three goals in the com­pe­ti­tion for Napoli but is out for months with a knee in­jury. The Serie A side lost to Roma on Satur­day, leav­ing them seven points off the league lead­ers Ju­ven­tus. Be­sik­tas, back in the com­pe­ti­tion for the first time since 2009/2010, were buoyed by a 1-0 win at Kay­serispor to main­tain their best do­mes­tic start in five sea­sons. Be­sik­tas mid­fielder Gokhan In­ler plans not to cel­e­brate if he scores against his for­mer club.

At Kiev Dy­namo Kiev (UKR) v Ben­fica (POR)

Both sides go in search of their first win, cru­cial if they are not to be cut adrift in the group. Dy­namo’s Ser­hiy Sy­dorchuk is avail­able after a one match ban due to his match­day one dis­missal in the 2-1 loss to Napoli. They host Ben­fica on the back of a week­end 1-1 draw at FC Chornomorets Odesa to leave the reign­ing cham­pi­ons six points adrift in the Ukrainian Premier League. Ben­fica’s 4-2 loss to Napoli is their only de­feat in their last 20 matches in all com­pe­ti­tions.

GROUP C At Barcelona Barcelona (ESP) v Manch­ester City (ENG)

Pep Guardi­ola’s re­turn to Barcelona, the club where he won the Cham­pi­ons League as both player and coach (twice) makes this game the tie of the sea­son so far. Barcelona have won 12 straight Cham­pi­ons League games at home and with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ney­mar are all primed to play. Cru­cially for City play­maker Kevin de Bruyne and Ser­gio Aguero will be at full fit­ness too after two draws and a de­feat in the last three games. Cap­tain Vin­cent Kom­pany also looks set for a start. Ger­ard Pique, in the news this week for his con­tro­ver­sial role in Spain’s out­fit and his am­bi­tions to be Barcelona pres­i­dent, has also scored three goals in the last three games. Guardi­ola’s men drew with Ever­ton at the week­end.

At Glas­gow Celtic (SCO) v Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach (GER)

Celtic’s rau­cous fans car­ried the Hoops to a wild 3-3 draw with Pep Guardi­ola’s Man City last time out and will be a bank­able as­set against Ger­many’s Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach. They’ll need to be as Celtic are tra­di­tion­ally beaten by Ger­man op­po­nents. An­drÈ Schu­bert’s charges come to Celtic Park in des­per­ate need of a win after de­feats against City and Barcelona and in poor spir­its after miss­ing two penal­ties in a 00 draw with Ham­burg on Satur­day. The man to keep an eye on is Celtic striker Moussa Dem­bele, who has 15 goals in his last 17 games. Bren­dan Rodgers knows that if the 1967 Cham­pi­ons are to es­cape from this group with the re­spect of their own fans they need to win the game and will be prim­ing the striker to spear­head his mas­ter­plan.

Group D At Ros­tov-on-Don, Rus­sia Ros­tov (RUS) v Atletico Madrid (ESP)

Rus­sia’s Ros­tov are seek­ing to build on their plucky home Cham­pi­ons League de­but 2-2 draw against PSV after an open­ing 5-0 thump­ing by Bayern Munich. Ros­tov will be hop­ing for no re­peat of the ba­nana throw­ing in­ci­dent that marred the PSV stale­mate. They were beaten by Spar­tak Mos­cow in the do­mes­tic league on Satur­day with red cards dished out to two of their play­ers. The Rus­sians are up against it after last sea­son’s fi­nal­ists Atletico sparkled in a 1-0 de­feat of Bayern Munich. It lifted Diego Sime­one’s im­pres­sive side into the group lead. A 7-1 hum­bling of Granada in La Liga means they travel to Rus­sia in con­fi­dent mood.

At Munich, Ger­many Bayern Munich (GER) v PSV Eind­hoven (NED)

Bayern host PSV with Carlo Ancelotti slam­ming their “bad at­ti­tude” in Satur­day’s 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt and club chair­man Karl-Heinz Rum­menigge de­scrib­ing the per­for­mance as “un­ac­cept­able”. They need a win to steady the ship after a last time out loss to Atletico Madrid left them in sec­ond, three points off the Span­ish pace­set­ters. Franck Ribery misses the match with a leg in­jury. A win will be Bayern’s first in their last four out­ings. — AFP

MANCH­ESTER: Manch­ester City’s English de­fender John Stones (L) and Manch­ester City’s Ar­gen­tinian striker Ser­gio Aguero (2R) watch as Manch­ester City’s English mid­fielder Ra­heem Ster­ling (2L) and Manch­ester City’s Nige­rian striker Kelechi Iheana­cho (3L) com­pete for the ball dur­ing a team train­ing ses­sion at Manch­ester City Foot­ball Academy Cam­pus in Manch­ester, north west Eng­land, yes­ter­day ahead of their UEFA Cham­pi­ons League Group C foot­ball match against Barcelona at the Camp Nou to­day. — AFP

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