Milan and Barca can wrap up easy group
Updated: 2011-11-01 07:38
BERNE - AC Milan and Barcelona can wrap up their Champions League group with two matches to spare and reduce their much-anticipated meeting next month to a mere friendly if both win their respective games on Tuesday.
Benfica, Real Madrid and Arsenal can also progress with wins in this week's matches while Chelsea will virtually ensure its presence in the last 16 if it takes three points.
Bayern Munich's game at home to Napoli on Wednesday, following a 1-1 draw earlier this month, is the pick of the week's matches, along with Real Madrid's visit to Olympique Lyon the same evening.
After a few early surprises, the group stage is again in danger of becoming a mere warm-up exercise for the big teams, contradicting the clich that says there are no easy games in football.
Even Manchester United, which started out with two draws in Group C, could leave itself with a relatively straightforward task to qualify if it beats Romanian champions Otelul Galati at home on Wednesday.
Apart from Benfica, the only surprise leaders in the eight groups are Cypriots APOEL Nicosia, who host Europa League champions Porto in Group G.
"We are happy to be top with five points. It's a big thing for APOEL and Cyprus. We are not top of the group through luck but we still know that everything can change with every match," coach Ivan Jovanovic said.
One point clear of Zenit St Petersburg and Porto, APOEL could drop to third place if it loses and the Russians beat Shakhtar Donetsk in the group's other game on Tuesday.
Bundesliga leader Bayern dropped its first points of the campaign at Napoli but is still two points clear of the Champions League debutants at the top of Group A, where Manchester City, a further point behind, visits Villarreal, which has yet to get off the mark.
That group is a stark contrast to Group H, where AC Milan and Barcelona have taken seven points each from three games while BATE Borisov and Viktoria Plzen have one apiece.
Serie A champions Milan visits Belarusian champions BATE, where Barcelona has already recorded a 5-0 win, while Pep Guardiola's side visits Viktoria Plzen in Prague.
The Czech champions are unable to play at their own stadium as it does not meet competition standards.
Further wins for the big two will guarantee their places in the last 16 and reduce their meeting at San Siro on Nov. 23 to one of academic interest.
However, due to the mathematical intricacies of the Champions League, neither of the big two will qualify on Tuesday should one of them lose.
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