Champions League matchday: Liverpool, Real Madrid aim for Round of 16 spots; Inter hope for miracle
Liverpool can advance to the knockout stage with a match to spare by beating Ajax at Anfield, but the injury-hit English champion have won just one of their last four matches.
A look at what’s happening in the Champions League on Tuesday:
Already secured in the Round of 16, defending champion Bayern Munich will rest striker Robert Lewandowski and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from their match against Atlético Madrid. Midfielder Leon Goretzka also won't make the trip to the Spanish capital. Atlético are coming off two consecutive draws against Lokomotiv Moscow, but they can advance if they defeat Bayern and Lokomotiv do not beat Salzburg at home in the other group match.
It remains unclear if Atlético coach Diego Simeone will be able to count on striker Luis Suárez, who recently tested positive for the coronavirus while on Uruguay duty. Lokomotiv and Salzburg are yet to win but still have chances of making it to the knockout stage.
Real Madrid and Borussia Mönchengladbach can advance to the last 16 if they win their matches. Group leader Gladbach host last-placed Inter Milan, while Madrid visit third-placed Shakhtar Donetsk. Madrid won at Inter in the previous round but they are coming off their third straight setback in the Spanish league, 2-1 at home against Alavés on Saturday. Karim Benzema is expected to be available to coach Zinedine Zidane after nursing a muscle problem, but Zidane will not be able to count on Eden Hazard, who was injured against Alavés. Captain Sergio Ramos remains out because of an injury. Gladbach are flying high after big wins home and away against Shakhtar but will be without injured defender Nico Elvedi, who scored a header against the Ukrainian team last week. Inter know that anything but a win will consign it to another early Champions League exit.
Manchester City have already qualified for the Round of 16. Now the team wants to seal top spot in the group. City travels to second-placed Porto — who need a point to advance — with coach Pep Guardiola putting pressure on his players to not let up amid an underwhelming start to the Premier League. Guardiola said after a 5-0 win over Burnley that past reputations count for nothing as he looks to kickstart their Premier League campaign and that current form is all that matters as he selects his side. “The guys who help the team, who help me, will have more chance to play,” Guardiola said. “The others, they have to wait the opportunity.” Sergio Aguero is unlikely to play, however, having missed training as he recovers from a knee injury. Marseille’s Champions League form has been so bad they have set a record with 13 straight defeats in the competition, and have not even scored in four group games. However, their European campaign can still be salvaged if Marseille beat Olympiakos at Stade Velodrome to move level on points with the Greek club as they chase a Europa League spot for a third-place finish.
Liverpool can advance to the knockout stage with a match to spare by beating Ajax at Anfield, but the injury-hit English champion have won just one of their last four matches amid a packed schedule that has left manager Jurgen Klopp unhappy. Among that run was a 2-0 loss at home to Atalanta last week, which left qualification wide open. Atalanta and Ajax are two points behind first-placed Liverpool, who has the insurance of a final group game against FC Midtjylland — a competition newcomer that has been an easy-beat so far and is on no points after four games. The game against Ajax will be Liverpool's fourth in 10 days. It pits two teams with 10 European Cup titles between them. Atalanta, who was a surprise quarterfinalist last season, knows that if they beat Midtjylland and Ajax fail to beat Liverpool, a draw in The Netherlands in their final match will be enough to send it through to the round of 16. Robin Gosens, who scored against Liverpool, has recovered after missing Saturday's loss against Hellas Verona through injury.
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Roma stay third with 34 points, but are six points off leaders AC Milan having also played a game more.
Liverpool are expected to be without Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez for the rest of the season, while Joel Matip is also currently sidelined leaving Klopp without a senior recognised centre-back.
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