Champions League Preview: Early qualification up for grabs!

by ‘Ifreke Inyang

Tonight in the Champions League, several teams have the chance to sail into the next round with two games to spare. In Group H, AC Milan and Barcelona will both confirm their places in the next round if they pick up away wins against BATE Borislov and Viktoria Plzen  respectively. Really, they should. And even if by some dramatic incident they don’t, nothing can eventually stand in their way of qualifying for the elimination rounds. They are both runaway leaders in the group with seven points each. BATE and Viktoria Plzen both have a point each and the best  either of them will likely get is a place in the Europa league, just like the winner of the group will be decided by the return leg of the game between AC Milan and Barcelona.

Arsenal also have a chance to qualify for the next stage. The Gunners go into the home game against French side, Marseille leading Group F with seven points. Just over the weekend, the Gunners thrashed London rivals, Chelsea 5-3 with in-form striker, Robin van Persie bagging three goals in the encounter. Van Persie is in the form of his life and his statistics for this year alone is frightening.

But Wenger has been quick to tell his team to stay grounded and not be carried away by their current form.  Whatever the case, expect Arsenal to win this tie at the Emirates and qualify.

Their London neighbours, Chelsea will be hoping to put a disastrous week behind them when they travel to Genk. The Blues have been in the public eye all week with the racist allegations that were leveled against defender, John Terry. As if that was not enough, the defender’s slip in the 85th minute of the game against Arsenal allowed Van Persie to go one-on-one with Peter Cech and give Arsenal a 4-3 lead at Stamford Bridge.

Andre Villas-Boas has come out to defend his captain but a few pundits feel he might pull the England defender out of the firing line as his side seek to tighten their grip on Group E. Chelsea currently lead the group with seven points and are closely followed by Bayern Leverkusen who have six points. Valencia occupy third position with two points.

In other games tonight, Borussia Dortmund will be hoping to avenge their defeat to Olympiakos in Germany. The two sides are likely to pick the Europa Cup ticket in Group F. Valencia will be banking on home comfort to garner more points as the matches run out when they host Bayern Leverkusen. Apoel Nicosia are the surprise leader of Group G and will try to extend their position when they host FC Porto. The other game in the group will be between Shahktar Donetsk and Zenit St Petersburg in Russia.

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