Trio look to clinch Champions League knockout berths

Reigning champions Real Madrid, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund can all qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday. AFP Sports looks at the fixtures in Groups A, B, C and D:

Trio look to clinch Champions League knockout berths

Paris: Reigning champions Real Madrid, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund can all qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday. AFP Sports looks at the fixtures in Groups A, B, C and D:
Group A


Atletico can close in on a place in the last 16 with a third consecutive win in Group A when they go to Sweden to face the section`s bottom club. The reigning Spanish champions have won their last four games, including a 5-0 thumping of Malmo two weeks ago and a 4-2 defeat of Cordoba on Saturday which featured a brace from Antoine Griezmann and lifted them within a point of top spot in La Liga. With Tiago Mendes fit again, Atletico coach Diego Simeone has a full squad at his disposal. Malmo had already wrapped up the Swedish title before the season finished at the weekend. Their only points so far in Group A came in their only previous home match, when they beat Olympiakos 2-0.


This encounter in Turin has the makings of a decisive encounter. Juve are three points clear at the top of Serie A but have struggled to transform their domestic form onto the European stage and were beaten 1-0 at Olympiakos in their last outing. Having collected just three points from three games in Group A, Massimiliano Allegri`s side will be staring elimination in the face if they suffer another defeat at home to the Greek title-holders, and their situation would not be helped if Atletico were to win in Malmo. 

However, Arturo Vidal remains confident, saying: "We are in great shape and the game against Olympiakos is like a final. Getting through to the next round is our minimum objective." Olympiakos have lost their last three away games in the competition and went down 7-0 when they last visited Juve in 2003.
Group B


Second place behind Real Madrid appears to be up for grabs in Group B after Ludogorets beat Basel 1-0 last time out. Now the sides meet again in Switzerland, where Paulo Sousa`s side have a good record in Europe, including beating Liverpool last month. The Swiss champions and league leaders are without the injured Marco Streller and the banned Geoffroy Serey Die but Marcelo Diaz can play after serving a suspension. Ludogorets must do without the suspended Yordan Minev, the scorer of the late winner in the reverse fixture in Sofia.


Reigning European champions Madrid will qualify for the last 16 with a victory at home to Liverpool, who they outclassed 3-0 at Anfield two weeks ago. Few would bet against Carlo Ancelotti`s side recording another comfortable win at the Santiago Bernabeu given the respective form of the two sides just now. Real turned on the style to win 4-0 at Granada on Saturday, their 11th consecutive win taking them top of La Liga. Gareth Bale, who has sat out his side`s last five games with a pelvic muscle injury, has returned to training too, meaning Madrid look in rude health just now as they look to extend their 18-game unbeaten run at home in the Champions League. 

In contrast, Liverpool need a boost after a 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday. They have lost their last two group games and another defeat on Tuesday would seriously compromise their chances of reaching the knockout stage. However, manager Brendan Rodgers has urged his side to dig deep, saying: "I think we have demonstrated character in this team over the last 18 months -- and, of course, when you are not playing as well, then that is sometimes what you have to rely on."
Group C


While Zenit are flying at home, the meeting with Bayer Leverkusen at the Petrovski Stadium could be decisive for them. Andre Villas-Boas`s side are unbeaten in the Russian Premier League this season and their 1-0 win at CSKA Moscow on Saturday saw them move seven points clear atop the table. However, having lost 2-0 when the teams clashed in Germany a fortnight ago, another defeat Tuesday would leave them five points behind the Bundesliga side in Group C. Leverkusen top the section, but warmed up for the trip to chilly Russia by losing 1-0 at Hamburg, their first loss in nine games.

Neutrals will be hoping for a more entertaining game than the goalless draw these sides played out two weeks ago as they clash again in Lisbon. Benfica, meanwhile, need a win at all costs as they currently sit at the foot of Group C with just one point. An obstinate Monaco are second and have yet to concede a goal in the competition. Their Portuguese coach Leonardo Jardim returns to familiar territory having been in charge along the road from the Estadio da Luz at Sporting last season. His current team have lost only one of their last 10 outings but are still without injured striker Dimitar Berbatov.
Group D


It has not been an entirely convincing start to the season for Arsenal, even if they have lost just one of their last seven games. A dramatic late turnaround saw the Gunners win 2-1 in Belgium two weeks and now they face Anderlecht in the reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium knowing that another victory will see them secure their place in the last 16, provided Galatasaray do not beat Borussia Dortmund. Wojciech Szczesny can return in goal for Arsenal after he missed the trip to Brussels due to a ban, leaving Argentine youngster Emiliano Martinez to take his place. Anderlecht may top the Belgian league but they have a young side and have suffered seven defeats in their last eight meetings with English opponents.


Dortmund will once again hope to find solace in the Champions League as they endure a dreadful start to the season in the Bundesliga. A 2-1 loss at Bayern Munich on Saturday was their seventh in 10 games and left them in the relegation zone. In contrast, they have won all three Group D games to date and will qualify for the last 16 with another win. Cesare Prandelli`s Galatasaray have so far struggled in Europe this season but the Turkish giants can point to an impressive recent record away to German opponents, with four wins from their last six games.