Arsenal, Chelsea hope to throw knockout punch
By Agencies | Published: 26th November 2013 01:25 AM |
Arsenal will look to close in on a place in the last 16 by inflicting a fifth defeat in five games in this season’s competition on Marseille.
If the Gunners win at the Emirates Stadium, they will qualify for the last 16 should Borussia Dortmund fail to win at home to Napoli. A draw will be enough if Dortmund lose.
Marseille are already eliminated but could yet steal third place and a Europa League berth with the right combination of results. That seems unlikely, though, especially with coach Elie Baup having fitness concerns over Andre-Pierre Gignac and Mathieu Valbuena. Premier League leaders Arsenal — who won 2-1 in southern France in September — welcomed back Theo Walcott after injury in Saturday’s Premier League victory over Southampton.
Meanwhile, Chelsea need just a draw against Basel in Switzerland to clinch their place in the last 16, and a fourth successive win in Group E will see the Blues advance as winners of the section.
Chelsea won at St Jakob-Park last season in the semifinals of the Europa League but will be wary of the Swiss champions, having lost 2-1 when they met in London in September. Chelsea come into the game fresh from a 3-0 win at West Ham United that left them in third place in the Premier League. They have lost just one of their last 13 games in all competition, while Basel remain clear at the top of the Swiss Super League and have lost just once in 19 outings.
Injury-struck Barcelona can ensure they finish top of Group H with just a point when they travel to face Ajax. Gerardo Martino’s men have already qualified for the last-16 and shrugged off the absence of Lionel Messi and Victor Valdes among others to maintain their place atop La Liga with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Granada on Saturday.
Cesc Fabregas was on target once more at the weekend and he has echoed his coach’s calls for there to be no excuses despite the absence of a number of key players. The Catalans will be boosted by the return of Xavi Hernandez after he sat out the Granada match with a hamstring problem.
However, Adriano has joined Jordi Alba and Adriano on the sidelines, leaving Martin Montoya as the only senior full-back available to Martino. Ajax, meanwhile, still have aspirations of joining Barca in the last-16 as they lie third in the group, but just a point behind AC Milan with the Dutch champions still to travel to Milan.
Two-time European champions Porto need to win at home to Austria Vienna at the Estadio do Dragao as they chase Zenit for second place in Group G and a spot in the last 16. The Portuguese side won 1-0 in Vienna in September thanks to a second-half Lucho Gonzalez goal but have taken just one point in their subsequent three matches, losing at home to Zenit and Atletico Madrid.
Atletico are already through to the last 16 as the only side apart from defending champions Bayern Munich to win their first four group games. Diego Simeone’s side are already certain to finish first in Group G too.