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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Champions League Matchday: Liverpool, Real Madrid among teams looking to advance

Liverpool can advance to the Champions League knockout stage with a match to spare by beating Ajax at Anfield.

By: AP | December 1, 2020 8:59:53 am
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah celebrates with teammates. (Reuters)

A look at what’s happening in the Champions League on Tuesday:

GROUP A

Already secured in the round of 16, defending champion Bayern Munich will rest striker Robert Lewandowski and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from its match against Atletico Madrid. Midfielder Leon Goretzka also won’t make the trip to the Spanish capital. Atletico is coming off two consecutive draws against Lokomotiv Moscow, but it can advance if it defeats Bayern and Lokomotiv does not beat Salzburg at home in the other group match. It remains unclear if Atletico coach Diego Simeone will be able to count on striker Luis Suarez, who recently tested positive for the coronavirus while on Uruguay duty. Lokomotiv and Salzburg are yet to win but still have chances of making it to the knockout stage.

GROUP B

Real Madrid and Borussia Monchengladbach can advance to the last 16 if they win their matches. Group leader Gladbach hosts last-placed Inter Milan, while Madrid visits third-placed Shakhtar Donetsk. Madrid won at Inter in the previous round but is coming off its third straight setback in the Spanish league, 2-1 at home against Alaves on Saturday. Karim Benzema is expected to be available to coach Zinedine Zidane after nursing a muscle problem, but Zidane will not be able to count on Eden Hazard, who was injured against Alaves. Captain Sergio Ramos remains out because of an injury. Gladbach is flying high after big wins home and away against Shakhtar but will be without injured defender Nico Elvedi, who scored a header against the Ukrainian team last week. Inter Inter knows that anything but a win will consign it to another early Champions League exit.

GROUP C

Manchester City has already qualified for the round of 16. Now the team wants to seal top spot in the group. City travels to second-placed Porto _ which needs a point to advance _ with coach Pep Guardiola putting pressure on his players to not let up amid an underwhelming start to the English Premier League. Guardiola said after a 5-0 win over Burnley that past reputations count for nothing as he looks to kickstart their Premier League campaign and that current form is all that matters as he selects his side. “The guys who help the team, who help me, will have more chance to play,” Guardiola said. “The others, they have to wait the opportunity.” Sergio Aguero is unlikely to play, however, having missed training as he recovers from a knee injury. Marseille’s Champions League form has been so bad it has set a record with 13 straight defeats in the competition, and has not even scored in four group games. However, its European campaign can still be salvaged if Marseille beats Olympiakos at Stade Velodrome to move level on points with the Greek club as they chase a Europa League spot for a third-place finish.

GROUP D

Liverpool can advance to the knockout stage with a match to spare by beating Ajax at Anfield, but the injury-hit English champion has won just one of its last four matches amid a packed schedule that has left manager Jurgen Klopp unhappy. Among that run was a 2-0 loss at home to Atalanta last week, which left qualification wide open. Atalanta and Ajax are two points behind first-placed Liverpool, which has the insurance of a final group game against FC Midtjylland _ a competition newcomer that has been an easy-beat so far and is on no points after four games. The game against Ajax will be Liverpool’s fourth in 10 days. It pits two teams with 10 European Cup titles between them. Atalanta, which was a surprise quarterfinalist last season, knows that if it beats Midtjylland and Ajax fails to beat Liverpool, a draw in The Netherlands in its final match will be enough to send it through to the round of 16. Robin Gosens, who scored against Liverpool, has recovered after missing Saturday’s loss against Hellas Verona through injury.

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