Battles rage for CL qualification
AFP Sports looks ahead to tomorrow morning’s Champions League action with the battles for qualification raging:
Ludogorets (BUL) v Basel (SUI) Bulgarians Ludogorets and Basel have proved the makeweights in Group A with both garnering a solitary point to date. A Europa League spot is the consolation prize that awaits the side that can cement third place.
The two parted 1-1 in the first meeting in Switzerland. Previous encounters saw the Swiss win handsomely in a two-leg playoff three years ago. Ludogorets will be slight favourites, courtesy of home advantage, and they gave Arsenal a brief scare in their last outing, but let slip a two-goal lead to succumb 3-2.
Napoli (ITA) v Dynamo Kiev (UKR) Napoli might just about top the group but they are locked in a three-way struggle with Benfica and Besiktas for two places in the last 16. They came from behind to see off Kiev in Ukraine in the reverse fixture and badly need three points here.
Their weekend 2-1 win at Udinese kept them in touch with the top four in Serie A, though prolific striker Arkadiusz Milik is still out injured.
Lorenzo Insigne grabbed a brace at Udinese and the Italians will be looking to him and Jose Callejon to fire them past Dynamo, the whipping boys of the group with just one point. Besiktas (TUR) v Benfica (POR) Benfica, level on points with Napoli, travel to Turkey’s still-unbeaten Besiktas, who are just a point adrift of the top pair. A Benfica victory will take the two-time champions, top in the Portuguese league, through to the knock-out phase.
But they cannot afford to be complacent against a Besiktas side which held them to a draw in Lisbon. The Turkish champions are looking to get out of the pool phase for the first time in six attempts and their fans are sure to give Benfica a hostile reception.
Atletico Madrid (ESP) v PSV Eindhoven (NED) Atletico might already be through and top of the group, but they are on a poor run in the Spanish league. Beaten finalists in two of the last three editions of the Champions League, the Spaniards will qualify as group winners if they win and Bayern do worse. Coach Diego Simeone ( caricature) seems to be losing his iron grip a tad and success built on a rock-solid defence appears to be slipping. Phillip Cocu’s PSV will be massive underdogs nonetheless and they only drew 0-0 at lowly Willem II at the weekend in domestic action, with their Dutch championship hopes evaporating slowly. – AFP