Three more clubs booked their place in the knockout stage of the Champions League last night.
Before a record crowd at the Philips stadium PSV Eindhoven secured their qualification from the group stage for the first ever time with a hard fought 1-1 draw with Arsenal. The Dutch also look to have secured the top spot in Group E and to do so now require just a point from their remaining fixture against Panathinaikos on 7 December.
Arsenal’s destiny is still in their own hands but they will need to beat Rosenborg to ensure qualification. The Norwegion’s 2-2 draw at home Panathinaikos saw them eliminated from both the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. Arsenal are strong favourites to progress but the Greeks, just a point behind, could still pip them for second spot.
After the game in Norway in which his side twice led Panathinaikos coach Zdenek Scasny admitted, “it will be difficult to qualify”.
Both Milan and Barcelona secured their places in the next round from Group F.
Milan finally saw off Shakhtar Donetsk with four second half goals in the San Siro to open up a two-point gap from Barcelona, who could only draw at home to Celtic.
Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard did not appreciate Celtic’s tactics though. He said: “Every opponent has the right to play according to their own style, that’s part of football.
“But once Celtic got their equalizer they sat back and defended even more. They played a sort of anti-football as they got eight or even ten men behind the ball, although I understand completely why they did it.”
Milan face a difficult final away match with the Scottish champions though who need a win to ensure a UEFA Cup place ahead of Shakhtar.
Milan must to win to guarantee top spot.
Barcelona will also need to overcome Shakhtar to have any chance of going through as group winners and thus avoid some of the competitions big guns, namely Juventus and Chelsea who have already won their respective groups.
Should Milan draw and Barcelona win then goal difference will come into play given that the spoils were shared in their two group meetings.
Valencia set up a storming final match showdown with Werder Bremen as they won at Anderlecht. The German’s could only draw at home to Inter Milan and Valencia must now beat Bremen to pip them for second spot.
Their coach Claudio Ranieri said: “This win tonight and the one last weekend in Malaga have got us back on track again because the draw between Inter and Bremen gives us the chance to still qualify for the next phase of the Champions League.”
Inter are strong favourites to win the group though. They have a one-point lead over Bremen with just a home game against Anderlecht to come. The Belgium’s will be low on confidence and are the only team in the competition still to register a point.
Chelsea may have already wrapped up top spot in Group H but the battle for second place will go right to the wire. Porto’s excellent 1-0 win in the sub-zero conditions of Moscow last night reignited their Champions League aspirations. They are now tied for second spot with Paris St-Germain who drew 0-0 with an under-strength Chelsea team.
PSG manager Vahid Halilhodzic was delighted with the point, saying: “The tactics we chose tonight paid off.
“We watched seven or eight videos of Chelsea games to prepare in great detail.”
CSKA Moscow are bottom of the table but just a point off second spot a win for them in Paris in two weeks time could still see them qualify if Porto fail to beat Chelsea.
PSG on the other hand will qualify if they beat the Russians. Due to their superior head-to-head record against Porto they would finish second even if the reigning European Champions beat Chelsea.
“Our destiny is now in our hands,” said Halilhodzic.
Summary of Champions League qualifiers:
Qualified: PSV Eindhoven
Possible qualifiers: Arsenal/Panathinaikos
Qualified: Milan & Barcelona
Possible qualifiers: Werder Bremen/Valencia
Qualified: Chelsea (group winners)
Possible qualifiers: PSG/Porto/CSKA