MATCHDAY: Barcelona looks to avoid exit in Champions League

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


Napoli handed Ajax its worst-ever Champions League defeat last week with a 6-1 rout to remain perfect and will be confident of progressing when it hosts the Dutch club at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Perfect in Europe and unbeaten atop Serie A, Napoli has been producing goals seemingly at will with Giacomo Raspadori and Giovanni Simeone filling in ably at center forward for the injured Victor Osimhen. Liverpool is in second place, three points behind Napoli, after wins over Ajax then British rival Rangers but heads to Glasgow for the return match without injured stars Luis Diaz and Trent Alexander-Arnold, who were both hurt against Arsenal in the Premier League on Sunday. Rangers has lost all three of its games.


Xabi Alonso makes his Champions League coaching debut as his Bayer Leverkusen team hosts Porto. A Champions League winner as a player for Liverpool and Real Madrid, Alonso won his first game at Leverkusen in emphatic style with a 4-0 demolition of Schalke on Saturday. His next job is to rescue a Champions League campaign that has run into trouble after the team lost 2-0 to Porto last week in Gerardo Seoane’s last game as coach. Leverkusen right-back Jeremie Frimpong was sent off in that game and is suspended, as is midfielder Robert Andrich. Atlético Madrid needs to beat group leader Club Brugge at home to get itself back in position to advance after consecutive defeats at the Belgian champion and at Leverkusen. Atlético, Leverkusen and Porto are tied with three points, six fewer than Club Brugge.


Barcelona could be on the verge of another humiliating group-stage exit from the Champions League. Barcelona and Inter Milan seemingly are competing for the second spot in Group C behind a perfect Bayern Munich. The Italian team won 1-0 at San Siro last week and a victory at Camp Nou would mathematically qualify the Nerazzurri for the round of 16 and consign Barcelona to an early exit for the second straight year — unless Bayern loses to Viktoria Plzeň in what would be a major upset. If Inter beats Barcelona, then Bayern would need just a point at Viktoria Plzen to advance. After beating the Czech team 5-0 a week ago, anything other than a big win for Bayern would be a disappointment. The Bayern management is unhappy with the team’s Bundesliga results — four wins from nine games — but Bayern’s smooth progress so far in the Champions League takes some pressure off coach Julian Nagelsmann. Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, defenders Matthijs de Ligt and Alphonso Davies and forward Serge Gnabry all will miss the Plzeň game with injuries, while Jamal Musiala is out because of a positive coronavirus test.


The group is wide open, with three points separating the four teams — Sporting, Tottenham, Eintracht Frankfurt and Marseille — and all having got wins on the board in the first half of the group stage. Sporting, in first place on six points, hosts Marseille after losing in France last week. France international Jonathan Clauss, who was injured during Marseille’s 4-1 win, resumed training sooner than expected and Marseille hopes he will be back on the right flank. Tottenham and Eintracht are locked on four points each heading into their return match in London, with the teams serving up a lackluster 0-0 last week. Harry Kane picked up what he described as a “knock” in the 1-0 win at Brighton on Saturday but is expected to play while Sweden winger Dejan Kulusevski, who hasn’t played since getting injured during the international break, is back in training but won’t be risked.


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