With at least $12 million guaranteed for Champions League participants, it’s little wonder the final playoffs for the group stage are so tight. Going into the second legs this week, no team leads by more than a goal and half of the 10 games are level.
Arsenal, which drew 0-0 at Besiktas last week, has an enviable record of playing in the group stage every year since the 1998-99 season to protect. Former champions Celtic and Porto at least managed to score potentially valuable away goals.
The task is clear for Arsenal on Wednesday at the Emirates Stadium. Progress is only possible by winning the match or forcing a non-scoring draw and triumphing on penalty kicks.
“When you don’t score people are critical about goals and I agree with them, but we had chances and having watched the game again I believe we had the chances against Besiktas,” Wenger said. “Joel Campbell can contribute to that. At the moment he has not got his chance, but he will get it.”
Meanwhile, leaving Slovenia with a 1-1 draw at Maribor gives Celtic the edge going into the second leg on Tuesday.
Porto will look to play in the group stage for a 19th time if they can protect a 1-0 advantage over Lille at home on Tuesday. Zenit St. Petersburg takes the same result into its game at home to Standard Liege. Malmo must overturn a 2-1 deficit against Red Bull Salzburg on home soil to reach the group stage for the first time. APOEL, a surprise quarterfinalist three seasons ago, hosts Aalborg after drawing 1-1 in Denmark. BATE Borisov is also taking a 1-1 draw back to Belarus against Slovan Bratislava.
Best of Express