Porto, Sevilla hunt fi­nal knock­out berths

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

PA R I S :

While Real Madrid and Borus­sia Dort­mund grap­ple for top spot in Group F, twice for­mer win­ners Porto and Sevilla look to clinch the two re­main­ing spots in the Cham­pi­ons League last 16 today.

Por­tuguese gi­ants Porto, Euro­pean cham­pi­ons in 1987 and 2004, host Le­ices­ter City in their fi­nal group stage match wary of FC Copen­hagen pip­ping them to sec­ond in Group G. De­spite a woe­ful de­fence of their Pre­mier League crown, Le­ices­ter are guar­an­teed to fin­ish top of their sec­tion in Europe and avoid the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the next round.

And the Foxes could well de­cide which team joins them in the knock­out phase with Copen­hagen, third in the group, trail­ing Porto by two points ahead of a trip to point­less Club Brugge. Porto halted a run of five straight draws cour­tesy of teenager Rui Pe­dro’s 95thminute win­ner over Braga at the week­end, end­ing a club record run of 520 min­utes with­out a goal. “What mat­ters is that we won three points and we are go­ing to try to take ad­van­tage of this to con­tinue to grow and be­lieve,” said Porto coach Nuno Espir­ito Santo.

“I be­lieve the re­sults haven’t been show­ing what we do.” Porto will se­cure their pas­sage to the last 16 with vic­tory over Le­ices­ter, but any­thing less will open the door for Copen­hagen, who have a head-to-head ad­van­tage over the Por­tuguese on away goals.

“We kept a clean sheet, and now we just have to go Brugge and get a vic­tory and then hope that Le­ices­ter do their job and beat Porto,” said Copen­hagen’s Swedish in­ter­na­tional Erik Jo­hans­son af­ter last month’s 0-0 home draw against Porto.

Copen­hagen, un­beaten do­mes­ti­cally this term, stretched their lead in Den­mark to 11 points on Satur­day af­ter se­cur­ing an eighth suc­ces­sive win with a 1-0 de­feat of Ran­ders.

LYON PLOT SEVILLA SCALP

Three-time reign­ing Europa League cham­pi­ons Sevilla are favourites to ad­vance along­side Ju­ven­tus in Group H, with Lyon need­ing to beat the Spaniards by at least two goals at Parc OL. Lyon’s prepa­ra­tions were over­shad­owed by the ugly scenes that prompted Satur­day’s game at Metz to be called off af­ter just 31 min­utes with goal­keeper An­thony Lopes tar­geted by fire­crack­ers thrown by home sup­port­ers.

The Por­tu­gal in­ter­na­tional, 26, was taken to hos­pi­tal af­ter suf­fer­ing “trau­matic hear­ing loss” in both ears but is ex­pected to make a full re­cov­ery with no last­ing dam­age.

His sta­tus for today’s fix­ture is very much in doubt, but Lyon will draw en­cour­age­ment know­ing Sevilla-with­out man­ager Jorge Sam­paoli due to a touch­line ban-have lost on all three pre­vi­ous trips to France.

Sevilla’s trou­bles away from home resur­faced in a 2-1 de­feat at Granada over the week­end, with cap­tain Vi­cente Iborra lament­ing a sub-par per­for­mance. “It’s clear it wasn’t our best match and you pay for that,” said Iborra. “I think we were a bit dis­tracted by the Lyon game and now that we’re here we must make the most of it and achieve qual­i­fi­ca­tion.”

Sevilla may wel­come back Samir Nasri from in­jury, while Ju­ven­tus, a point clear at the top, will be ex­pected to ce­ment first place with group makeweights Di­namo Za­greb round­ing out their fruit­less cam­paign in Turin.

Dort­mund are one shy of the 20-goal group stage record-achieved by three sides in­clud­ing Manch­ester United’s treble-win­ning side in 1998-99 as well as the Real team that landed ‘La Dec­ima’ in 2014 — ahead of their visit to the Santiago Bern­abeu.—AFP

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