Wednesday 24 May 2017

Champions League permutations: What British clubs need to do to reach last 16

Guardiola and (right) Arsene Wenger
Guardiola and (right) Arsene Wenger

Charlie Eccleshare

Ahead of the Champions League's return on Tuesday, Telegraph Sport breaks down what each British team needs to do to reach the last 16.

Arsenal

After making hard work of qualifying from the group stage over the past few years, Arsenal’s progress this season has been encouragingly serene. Arsene Wenger’s side were lucky to draw their opening match away at Paris Saint-Germain, but since then they have been clinical in putting away Basel and then Ludugorets 2-0 and 6-0 respectively at the Emirates.

Seven points from three games has put Arsenal six clear of Basel and Ludugorets, and within sight of the last 16, but they are level with PSG, who have also won two of their three matches. It looks like the winner of the group will be decided by the match between Arsenal and PSG at the Emirates on Nov 23.

Before then though Arsenal must beat Ludogorets on Tuesday to maintain their momentum as they look to win a Champions League group for the first time since 2011 and avoid the biggest teams in the next round.

Celtic

Celtic’s chances of qualifying for the last 16 took a major hit with the 2-0 home defeat against Borussia Monchengladbach two weeks ago. Brendan Rodgers’ side started their campaign with a 7-0 thrashing at the Nou Camp against Barcelona but recovered well against Manchester City to earn a 3-3 draw at Celtic Park. The home loss to Monchengladbach means Celtic would be all but eliminated if they were beaten in Tuesday’s return match, but a win would move them joint with City in second.

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Celtic Manager Brendan Rodgers celebrates his side's victory

Third place and a Europa League spot is also a possibility, with Celtic only two points behind Monchengladbach and three behind City, but they’ll need to start defending better for that to happen - the Scottish champions have conceded 12 goals in their three matches so far. Kolo Toure in particular endured a torrid time against Monchengladbach and has subsequently been dropped.

Leicester

While they’ve found it tough going recreating the heights of last season in the Premier League, Leicester have hit the ground running in Europe. They have won all three of their matches without conceding a goal, and the 1-0 win over FC Copenhagen meant they had more points in the Champions League than they did from their first eight Premier League matches.

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Claudio Ranieri won the title last season with 81 points

After such a strong start, reaching the last 16 looks to be a formality, with Leicester five points clear at the top of Group G and needing just one more win, and possibly just a point, to progress. A defeat in their next match though, coupled with a win for Porto against pointless Club Brugge, would put Claudio Ranieri’s side only two points ahead of third-placed Porto.

But even then Leicester would only need to beat Brugge at home in the penultimate game of the group to qualify for the second round.   

Manchester City

After a comprehensive 4-0 win against Borussia Monchengladbach in their first group match, City now find themselves in danger of failing to qualify for the last 16. A 3-3 draw away at Celtic was followed by the 4-0 hammering at Barcelona, which leaves Pep Guardiola’s side in second place, just a point ahead of Monchengladbach and five behind Barca. City can be heartened though by the fact that two of their three remaining matches are at the Etihad, where they have gone seven European matches without defeat.

A win against Barcelona on Tuesday would reduce the gap to Luis Enrique's side to two points and keep alive City's hopes of topping the group. Should they lose however, City would be eliminated from the competition with a match to spare if they were then beaten in their next match away at Monchengladbach, assuming the German team beat Celtic on Tuesday. 

Tottenham

Three games in and Tottenham have it all to play for in an extremely tight group where top and bottom are separated by just three points. Spurs started the campaign badly with a 2-1 defeat at Wembley to Monaco, but they have recovered well and eked out a 1-0 win away at CSKA Moscow before hanging on for a 0-0 draw in Leverkusen.

The two impressive away results have left Spurs on four points at the halfway stage and in second position behind Monaco. If Tottenham win on Wednesday at Wembley against Leverkusen, they could end the night top of the group, but if they lose they could be bottom.

In theory Spurs should benefit from having home advantage in two of their three remaining matches, but Wembley proved to be more of a boost to their opponents Monaco in Septmeber and it remains to be seen whether the decision not to play at White Hart Lane will backfire.

Telegraph.co.uk

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