Barcelona, Manch­ester City look to seal spots in last 16

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Lionel Messi is back, and that's the best news Barcelona could have ahead of its Cham­pi­ons League match at Celtic.

Messi prac­ticed with the team on Mon­day, af­ter miss­ing the match against Malaga in the Span­ish league be­cause of ill­ness. With Luis Suarez also ab­sent through sus­pen­sion, Barcelona could not man­age more than a 00 draw. Both for­wards will be in squad to face Celtic to­day.

What Messi means for Barcelona is easy to see just by look­ing at num­bers, even with­out con­sid­er­ing the in­spi­ra­tional things he can do on the field.

Messi had hat tricks against Celtic and Manch­ester City in ear­lier Group C matches and has a to­tal of 90 Cham­pi­ons League goals, in­clud­ing seven hat tricks.

Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, Barcelona still has not sealed a spot in the last 16, but could do it with one match to spare. With nine points, Barcelona needs a win or a draw to ad­vance, de­pend­ing on other re­sults.

Af­ter win­ning 7-0 at home against Celtic, Barcelona may have the men­tal edge. But Celtic will have some­thing to prove af­ter its big­gest Euro­pean de­feat.

GROUP A

First place in the group is the prize when Arse­nal hosts Paris Saint-Ger­main in a meet­ing be­tween the top two.

Both teams have 10 points and are guar­an­teed to ad­vance to the knock­out stage, but still to be de­ter­mined is which club fin­ishes at the top — most likely earn­ing an eas­ier game in the last 16.

They drew 1-1 in Paris, so the win­ner in the re­turn match in Lon­don will se­cure first place based on their head-to-head record.

Lu­do­gorets Raz­grad is at home against FC Basel in the group's other game.

GROUP B

The group is still wide open and even last-place Dy­namo Kiev can ad­vance to the last 16, al­though it has only one point ahead of vis­it­ing Napoli.

Napoli's cam­paign has stalled with one point from the last two matches. But the Ital­ian side will ad­vance with a win, pro­vided Ben­fica also wins.

Ben­fica leads the group with seven points and vis­its Be­sik­tas, which has six. Ben­fica goes through with a win. Be­sik­tas ad­vances if it wins and Napoli doesn't.

Dy­namo can only stay in con­tention with a win and Be­sik­tas fails to do so. Oth­er­wise, Dy­namo can­not fin­ish higher than fourth.

GROUP C

Yaya Toure in­spired City to a 21 win over Crys­tal Palace in the Premier League on Satur­day, but the for­mer Ivory Coast mid­fielder will be back out of the team against Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach be­cause he is not a mem­ber of City's Cham­pi­ons League squad for the group stage.

Ilkay Gun­do­gan is likely re­place Toure in mid­field af­ter the Ger­many in­ter­na­tional was rested over the week­end, along with John Stones and David Silva.

City only needs a draw to progress, pro­vided Celtic doesn't beat Barcelona. Celtic stays in con­tention with a win, as long as City fails to take three points. Moenchenglad­bach needs to win to re­tain a chance of reach­ing the knock­out stage for the first time.

GROUP D

Atletico Madrid and Bay­ern Mu­nich are through and Atletico will take first place in the group if it beats PSV Eind­hoven at home and Bay­ern draws or loses in Ros­tov.

Atletico has beaten Bay­ern and has 12 points, while Bay­ern has nine.

Bay­ern slumped to its first Bun­desliga de­feat at Borus­sia Dort­mund over the week­end and will be with­out goal­keeper Manuel Neuer, who has a calf in­jury. Sven Ul­re­ich will re­place him. Ar­jen Robben, Ar­turo Vi­dal and Javi Martinez are also ab­sent.

Atletico was far from its best, too, go­ing down 3-0 to Real Madrid in a re­peat of last sea­son's Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal that Real Madrid won on penal­ties.

PSV and Ros­tov are bat­tling for third place in the group.

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