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English Clubs Struggling in Europe
One game remains in this year's group phase
Posted Nov 24, 2011 by Chris White
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Of the four English clubs in the group phase of this year’s Champions League, only Arsenal have booked their place in the knockout phase with just one match left in the first round. Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are all reliant on positive results against difficult opposition in their final fixtures to qualify, while the Italians and Spaniards are showing just how it’s done.
Group A goes to the final round of fixtures, after Napoli beat Manchester City 2-1 in Naples, taking the second spot in the group for the time being at least. Two goals from Edinson Cavani gave the Italian side the victory, with Mario Balotelli finding the net for City, who now need to beat the already qualified, and unbeaten Bayern Munich at the Etihad Stadium in order to qualify. Bayern were 3-1 winners against Villarreal in Germany, with Franck Ribery scoring twice. Mario Gomez added a third and Jonathan de Guzman scored a consolation for the Spaniards.
Inter Milan have qualified for the knockout phase as winners of Group B, courtesy of a 1-1 draw with Trabzonspor. Ricardo Alvarez put Inter in front in the 18th minute, but his goal was cancelled out by Halil Altintop. Second spot in the group will be decided on the final day, with the Turkish side currently in possession, holding a one-point advantage over Lille and CSKA Moscow, after the French champions won 2-0 in Moscow, thanks to a Vasili Berezutski own goal and a late strike from Moussa Sow.
Benfica have qualified from Group C after they drew 2-2 at Old Trafford against Manchester United, who find themselves having to avoid defeat against Basel in the final game in order to qualify. The Portuguese side lead after an early own goal from Phil Jones, but Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Fletcher turned the game around for last year’s beaten finalists, only for Pablo Aimar to equalise to seal the point they needed to qualify. Basel kept up the pressure on the top two, thanks to a 3-2 win against bottom side Otelul Galati. The Swiss side raced into a 3-0 lead at the break with goals from Fabian Frei, Alexander Frei and Marco Streller, but the Romanians fought back in the second half, with Gabriel Giurgiu and Liviu Antal causing some nervy moments for Basel.
Real Madrid are through from Group D as winners, and in some style, thrashing Dinamo Zagreb 6-2 at the Bernabeu. Real were 3-0 up inside ten minutes as Karim Benzema, Jose Callejon and Gonzalo Higuain all found the net. That became four after 20 minutes when Mesut Ozil scored, and Callejon and Benzema scored their second of the game to make it 6 before a late rally from the Croatians, with Fatos Beciraj and Ivan Tomecak scoring. Ajax hold second spot and just need to avoid defeat in their final game to qualify, after a 0-0 draw with Lyon in France.
In Group E, Bayer Leverkusen have taken over at the top thanks to a late 2-1 win against Chelsea. The English side took the lead early in the second half thanks through Didier Drogba, but Eren Derdiyok levelled for the Germans, and with the game seemingly destined for a draw, Manuel Friedrich scored a header in the final minute to give Leverkusen the points. Chelsea now need a goalless draw or a victory in their final match in order to qualify, against Valencia at Stamford Bridge. The Spanish side thumped Genk 7-0 at the Mestalla, with Roberto Soldado helping himself to a hat-trick. Jonas opened the scoring on ten minutes, before it became the Soldado show, sealing his treble by the 39th minute. Pablo made it 5-0, and Aritz Aduriz and Facundo Costa made it a miserable night for the Belgians.
Arsenal have qualified as the winner of Group F thanks to a double from Robin van Persie in a 2-1 win against Borussia Dortmund, who scored a late consolation at the Emirates through Shinji Kagawa. Marseille were almost through as well, until Olympiakos stole a 1-0 win at the Velodrome, courtesy of a Ioannis Potouridis strike, making the fight for second go right to the final round of fixtures.
APOEL Nicosia became the first Cypriot side to qualify for the knockout stages from Group G, despite a goalless draw away at second placed Zenit St Petersburg. The Russians hold a one-point advantage over FC Porto, who won 2-0 away at Shakhtar Donetsk, with goals from Hulk and an own goal from Radzvan Rat forcing the battle for qualification into the sixth game.
Champions Barcelona have qualified as the winners of Group H after an epic tussle with AC Milan at the San Siro. The Catalans edged a five-goal thriller 3-2 after leading the match three times. An own goal from Mark van Bommel but Barca ahead, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic equalised on 20 minutes, only to see Lionel Messi score a penalty on 31 minutes to give his side the half time lead. Kevin Prince Boateng made it 2-2, but Xavi scored the winner on 63 minutes. Milan have qualified as runners up, leaving Viktoria Plzen and BATE Borisov fighting it out for a Europa League spot, and the 1-0 win for Plzen has set them up well, with Marek Bakos scoring the decisive goal.
Watch highlights of the biggest match of this round, as Barcelona travel to the San Siro to face AC Milan: