What to watch for in to­day’s Cham­pi­ons League ac­tion

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

TEA SHOPS, get ready to stay open late. To­day’s Cham­pi­ons League ac­tion fea­tures a key match be­tween Ar­se­nal and Paris Saint-Ger­main. Mean­while, Barcelona, Man­ches­ter City and Bay­ern Mu­nich all face chal­leng­ing away games. All matches start at 1am Myan­mar time tonight – here’s a list of what to watch for.

Group A Ar­se­nal (ENG) vs Paris Sain­tGer­main (FRA) The Gun­ners will be out to put one over the French cham­pi­ons, whom they held 1-1 in Paris, as both strug­gle for top spot in Group A, the pair hav­ing al­ready booked pas­sage to the knock­out phase. The Lon­don­ers could look to Olivier Giroud, who res­cued a point from the bench at Old Traf­ford, to spear­head their at­tack af­ter Alexis Sanchez played through ham­string trou­ble. As Ar­se­nal drew with Man­ches­ter United to leave them fourth in the Premier League, PSG warmed up for to­day’s game with a fourth-straight win, 2-0 over Nantes, as they chase down French lead­ers Nice. PSG’s Old Traf­ford mis­fit An­gel Di Maria scored against Nantes but came off in the first half with a thigh in­jury, al­beit not one ex­pected to keep him out. Ar­gen­tine play­maker Javier Pa­s­tore is set to miss the trip to Lon­don with a knee prob­lem.

Lu­do­gorets (BUL) vs 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.

Group C Celtic (SCO) vs Barcelona (ESP) Top spot is still up for grabs in Group C as Barcelona, two points clear of Man­ches­ter City, travel to a Celtic side they squashed 7-0 at the Camp Nou. A win for Lionel Messi and Co – he is set to re­turn af­ter a sick­ness bug at the week­end – will see the Span­ish cham­pi­ons into the last 16, though a draw might also do it de­pend­ing on the other game. Luis Suarez will be back from sus­pen­sion, which is bad news for a Celtic side who are two points adrift at the bot­tom of the group. The Scot­tish giants warmed up for Barca with a 1-0 win over Kil­marnock which left them 13 points clear in their do­mes­tic league. Borus­sia Moenchenglad­bach (GER) vs Man­ches­ter City (ENG) City’s Yaya Toure-in­spired week­end win at Crys­tal Palace keeps them a point off lead­ers Chelsea in the Premier League. But it is at the back that they have wor­ries, par­tic­u­larly the fit­ness of tal­is­man cen­tre-back Vin­cent Kom­pany, who suf­fered a head in­jury in a col­li­sion with keeper Clau­dio Bravo at Palace. Vic­tory in Ger­many for Pep Guardi­ola’s side will see them into the next round. The home side look on course for a Europa League slot and need to pull off a sur­prise win if they are to have any hope of mak­ing fur­ther progress in this com­pe­ti­tion. On cur­rent form that looks a tall order af­ter suc­ces­sive do­mes­tic losses, to Cologne and Hertha Ber­lin, sent them into the bot­tom six in the Bun­desliga.

Group D Ros­tov (RUS) vs Bay­ern Mu­nich (GER) Five-time Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Bay­ern head to Rus­sia’s Ros­tov for their Group D clash lick­ing their wounds af­ter be­ing knocked from the top of the Bun­desliga. Their 1-0 de­feat at Dort­mund on Novem­ber 19 al­lowed RB Leipzig to fin­ish the week­end top of the Ger­man league ta­ble. Bay­ern are al­ready into the last 16 but need a win at Ros­tov to stay in touch with group lead­ers Atletico Madrid, who they host on De­cem­ber 6 for a po­ten­tial top-spot de­cider. Bay­ern will be with­out in­jured keeper Manuel Neuer, mean­ing Sven Ul­re­ich will deputise. Rock-bot­tom Ros­tov and PSV have a sin­gle point each so are locked in a strug­gle for a Europa League place only. The Rus­sians have a solid home record and held Ru­bin Kazan to a goal­less draw on Novem­ber 18.

Atletico Madrid (ESP) vs 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 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. –

Photos: AFP, EPA

Olivier Giroud (top left) hopes to lead Ar­se­nal over Group A rivals PSG, while Barcelona’s Luis Suarez (top right) looks to re­turn in top form af­ter his sus­pen­sion against Celtic. In Rus­sia, Bay­ern Mu­nich will have to man­age with­out in­jured keeper Manuel Neuer (bot­tom left), and against Celtic, Man­ches­ter City will look to Yaya Toure (bot­tom right) as they seek to clinch their spot in the next round.

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