AFP Sports looks ahead to Wednesday’s Champions League action with reigning champions Real Madrid, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and debutants Leicester City all looking to clinch places in the last 16 with two games to spare (kick-offs 1945 GMT):
Monaco (FRA) v CSKA Moscow (RUS)
Monaco top the group and remain unbeaten, so a win at home to the Russian champions will all but secure their place in the last 16. Leonardo Jardim’s side, who snatched a draw in Moscow last time out thanks to Bernardo Silva’s late equaliser, come into the game sitting in second place in Ligue 1. They are also the most prolific side in any of Europe’s leading leagues along with Barcelona, with both teams having netted 30 goals so far. That is despite Monaco having loaned giant Ivorian striker Lacina Traore to CSKA — he scored for the Russians in the reverse fixture. CSKA could be on the brink of elimination if they lose and form is not on their side. They have won just one of their last eight matches in all competitions and have been beaten eight times in their last nine away group games in the Champions League. Meanwhile, their goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev is looking to end a run of 40 consecutive Champions League games without keeping a clean sheet. CSKA are without the suspended Roman Eremenko, while Alan Dzagoev is a doubt.Â
Tottenham Hotspur (ENG) v Bayer Leverkusen (GER)
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham will be looking to end a five-game winless run when they entertain Leverkusen in a crucial contest at Wembley. Spurs have had four draws and one defeat in all competitions since beating Manchester City a month ago. That sequence includes a 0-0 draw in Germany two weeks ago, and Tottenham need at least the same again to keep qualification for the last 16 in their own hands. They will also be looking for a maiden victory at Wembley after losing 2-1 to Monaco at England’s national stadium in their Group E opener. Leverkusen have drawn all three group games so far and come into the match on the back of a 2-1 win at Wolfsburg at the weekend that ended their own run of four matches without a victory. Harry Kane is on the sidelines for Spurs while Joel Pohjanpalo and Karim Bellarabi are absent for the visitors.
At Dortmund, Germany
Borussia Dortmund (GER) v Sporting Lisbon (POR)
Dortmund have started strongly in Group F and will secure their place in the last 16 with a win at home to Sporting at the Signal Iduna Park. Thomas Tuchel’s men were 2-1 winners when the teams met in Portugal recently and have lost just one of their last 11 matches. However, they were held to a goalless draw by Schalke in the Ruhr derby at the weekend and sit only sixth in the Bundesliga. In addition, they have a long injury list with Marcel Schmelzer, Sven Bender, Marco Reus, Neven Subotic and Erik Durm all on the sidelines. Sporting need a positive result to keep alive their chances of reaching the knockout phase for the first time since 2008/09 but they have had one draw and suffered 11 defeats on their 12 previous visits to Germany. Jorge Jesus’s men are also struggling for form – last Friday’s 0-0 draw at Nacional left them with only one win in five, a run that has seen them drop to fourth place. Captain Adrien is injured.
Legia Warsaw (POL) v Real Madrid (ESP)
Incidents at Legia’s last home game, a 6-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund, means this meeting with the reigning champions will be played behind closed doors in the Polish capital. Legia lost 5-1 in Madrid last time out and are yet to register a point in the group — another defeat here will eliminate them, while even a draw may not put off the inevitable. Madrid, meanwhile, will be through with a win, provided Borussia Dortmund also win. Zinedine Zidane’s men warmed up for this game with a 4-1 win at Alaves in which Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick. They are top of La Liga, unbeaten in 15 games this season and have scored 24 times in their last five matches. Ronaldo, meanwhile, is just two goals away from reaching a century in European competition. Pepe is out, but it is set to be a daunting task for Legia, who are currently sixth in their domestic league.Â
FC Copenhagen (DEN) v Leicester City (ENG)
The Leicester City fairytale can reach the Champions League knockout phase if the shock English champions get a result at Copenhagen, who have four points so far. One of only three teams in the competition on full points from the opening three games, the feeling is that coach Claudio Ranieri is focusing on Europe. A win in Denmark will secure a place in the last 16, and they warmed up with a 1-1 draw at Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend. They travel to Denmark with their Danish international goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel in exceptional form. Copenhagen, who had gone 23 games without defeat before losing 1-0 in the reverse fixture, come into the match still unbeaten domestically and six points clear at the top of their league.
At Oporto, Portugal
Porto (POR) v Club Brugge (BEL)
The 2004 champions Porto are locked in a battle with Copenhagen for a place in the next round with the pair on four points. After winning 2-1 in Belgium with a late penalty, the home side badly need another result here. They are second in their domestic league, five points behind leaders Benfica, after drawing 0-0 at Vitoria Setubal at the weekend. He may have drawn a blank in that match but striker Andre Silva has scored 10 goals in his last nine games for club and country. Brugge, the runners-up in the 1978 European Cup, are on a seven-game winless away streak in the competition.Â They have had a poor season so far but their domestic form has improved since their last European outing, with seven points from three games lifting them to fifth in the Belgian league.
At Seville, Spain
Sevilla (ESP) v Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)
Serial Europa League winners Sevilla are level top of Group H alongside Juventus and tackle pointless Croatians Dinamo Zagreb, who lost 3-0 and 4-0 to Lyon and Juventus respectively before going down 1-0 at home to Sevilla two weeks ago. Fourth in the Spanish league, Sevilla have scored just two goals to get their seven points in Europe with a goalless draw at Juventus and a 1-0 win over Lyon coming before Frenchman Samir Nasri gave them the points in Zagreb. Nasri will miss this match with a hamstring injury and former Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli will hope his team can safely negotiate the encounter with a home clash with Barcelona to follow at the weekend. Dinamo have never gone beyond the group stage in the Champions League and will be eliminated if they lose.
At Turin, Italy
Juventus (ITA) v Lyon (FRA)
The 2015 finalists Juventus will qualify for the next round with a win over their struggling French visitors. Juve are unbeaten in their last 18 home matches in Europe and are fresh from beating Napoli 2-1 in Serie A at the weekend when Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain scored the winner against his old club and refused to celebrate. Paulo Dybala is absent for the hosts, who won 1-0 in Lyon two weeks ago. Striker Alexandre Lacazette missed a penalty for the Ligue 1 side in that match but he has been back in goalscoring form, grabbing a brace in a 2-1 away win at high-flying Toulouse at the weekend. After Gianluigi Buffon saved Lacazette’s penalty in the reverse fixture, Juventus had Mario Lemina sent off but beat Lyon thanks to Juan Cuadrado’s strike. Lyon will be out if they lose and Sevilla win.