Tuesday 04 December 2012
The final group matches of the UEFA Champions League take place this week with all but Manchester United of the English clubs still with something to play for.
Manchester City need to win away to Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday and even that may not be enough for the Barclays Premier League champions to prolong their stay in European competition this season.
Having failed to qualify for a place in the last 16 of the Europe's elite club competition, the best that Roberto Mancini’s side can hope for is a place in the UEFA Europa League.
City must beat group winners Dortmund and hope that Ajax do not win at Real Madrid, who are assured of finishing second. Amsterdam will host the final of the Europa League in May so Ajax will have an extra motive to win in Madrid.
City will have to play without Yaya Toure, who is suspended, while Aleksandar Kolarov joined the injury list after limping off against Everton at the weekend. Another blow is the absence of David Silva, who is also a doubt for the Manchester derby on Sunday with a hamstring injury.
"We are a good team," said Mancini. "We are a good club. We want to play well tomorrow and try to win.
"We have brought here all the players that are available. The other players that stay at home are injured. The players that are here will do everything to win this game. It will be difficult because, in this moment, Borussia are one of the best teams in Europe."
Fellow left-back Gael Clichy (ankle) will not be risked before Sunday's derby against Manchester United but midfielder Jack Rodwell (hamstring) has been training. Right-back Micah Richards (knee) is still out and centre-back Kolo Toure is ineligible.
Provisional squad: Hart, Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Maicon, Kompany, Lescott, Nastasic, Nasri, Milner, Barry, Garcia, Sinclair, Rodwell, Aguero, Dzeko, Balotelli, Tevez, Evans.
Already assured of spots in the knockout stages, Schalke and Arsenal still have first place to play for. Arsenal travel to Olympiacos, where, to finish top of Group B, they must win and rely on last-place Montpellier taking points off the Bundesliga outfit in France. Olympiacos are assured of third place and a spot in the Europa League.
Arsene Wenger had pledged to take a full-strength squad to Greece, but the Arsenal manager blamed Saturday’s defeat by Swansea City on his players being jaded so that may persuade him to rest some key players with an eye on Saturday's home match against West Bromwich Albion in the Barclays Premier League.
Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere have stayed behind, along with Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker. Youngsters Zak Ansah, Sead Hajrovic, Elton Monteiro, Chuba Akpom and James Shea are all in contention to make their senior debuts.
"Some players needed a rest because they were a bit on the fringe of injury, and some players are injured," Wenger told the club website.
"When I count the injured players I speak about Podolski and Walcott. We needed to rest Wilshere, 100 per cent, and Cazorla, Arteta and Mertesacker played many games recently. They have been rested.
"It is [to avoid fatigue], and we have one luxury, that we can do it. But we have as well one necessity, to win the game tomorrow night. I tried to find the right balance between resting some players and as well having a competitive team tomorrow night."
Provisional Squad: Szczesny, Vermaelen, Rosicky, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Squillaci, Coquelin, Arshavin, Jenkinson, Gervinho, Chamakh, Angha, Ansah, Hajrovic, Meade, Monteiro, Shea, Akpom.
Dinamo Zagreb v Dynamo Kiev
Paris St Germain v Porto
Montpellier v Schalke 04
Olympiacos v Arsenal
Malaga v Anderlecht
AC Milan v Zenit St Petersburg
Borussia Dortmund v Manchester City
Real Madrid v Ajax Amsterdam
Rafael Benitez takes charge of his first Champions League match as Chelsea’s interim manager knowing that the European champions need a win over Nordsjaelland and have to hope that Juventus lose away to Shakhtar Donetsk if they are to progress to the knockout stages.
Chelsea are third in Group E and their head-to-head record is inferior to the teams above them as they look to avoid becoming the first Champions League holders to fail to reach the subsequent last 16.
Manchester United are already guaranteed winners of Group H and Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to rest several first-team players for the visit of CFR Cluj, with an eye on the Manchester derby in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday.
Shakhtar Donetsk v Juventus
Chelsea v Nordsjaelland
Lille v Valencia
Bayern Munich v BATE Borisov
Barcelona v Benfica
Celtic v Spartak Moscow
Manchester United v CFR Cluj
Braga v Galatasaray