Bat­tles rage for CL qual­i­fi­ca­tion

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

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

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