This week marks the conclusion of the group stages of the 2018/19 Champions League with four places still available in the knockout phase and seven teams in contention, including a number of Europe’s elite clubs.
Here, we cast our eye over Tuesday’s two major fixtures as Tottenham travel to the Camp Nou to take on already-qualified Barcelona while Liverpool host Napoli at Anfield with both teams’ fate still to be decided.
Barcelona v Tottenham
This will only be their fourth meeting, and the first in Catalonia since 1982, but they do possess something of a shared history, or at least a link, particularly in the late ’80s with Gary Lineker, Terry Venables, Steve Archibald and Nayim crossing between the clubs.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was also formerly of Barca’s city rivals Espanyol but in terms of European status and success, there is a sizeable divide. One, however, that Spurs feel confident they can breach.
Following their 1-0 victory over Internazionale on matchday 5, the equation for Pochettino’s team is simple: they must match the Serie A side’s result in Eindhoven against PSV who are eliminated and cannot even reach the Europa League.
That means a defeat is extremely unlikely to be enough, something Pochettino was clearly mindful of as he rested striker Harry Kane and playmaker Christian Eriksen from the starting XI for their 2-0 Premier League win over Leicester on Saturday night.
Both will return to the team at the Camp Nou with the Tottenham manager’s major injury issue at right-back as, with Kieran Trippier struggling with a groin injury, Serge Aurier limped off against Leicester. That may mean a first Champions League start for 21-year-old Kyle Walker-Peters.
Barcelona, meanwhile, strolled to a 4-0 derby triumph over Espanyol on Saturday might with Lionel Messi in sparking form. Given they have already qualified as group winners, Ernesto Valverde may choose to give some first-team regulars rests while Ousmane Dembele may not feature after reportedly turning up for training on Sunday two hours late.
Gerard Pique is one candidate set to take a back seat as Samuel Umtiti’s knee injury means keeping the Spanish centre-back fit and sharp is imperative. Former Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen could therefore play while Jasper Cillessen may also earn a start in goal in place of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Liverpool v Napoli
Considering the task ahead of Liverpool, scoring four goals against Bournemouth on Saturday, while keeping a clean sheet, with Mohamed Salah looking in sensational touch was as good preparation as Jurgen Klopp could have hoped for.
The Reds simply have to beat Napoli to reach the last 16, by what margin is dependent on how Paris Saint-Germain fare in their match against Red Star in Serbia.
A surprise PSG loss would mean Liverpool only require a 1-0 victory; a draw for the French champions means the Reds must respond with a two-goal cushion to overtake Napoli on head-to-head record; if, as expected, Neymar and co. beat Red Star, Liverpool must win to nil or by a large margin, otherwise Napoli could progress on away goals.
Complicated to a degree, something all of Liverpool’s own making following three successive away defeats, but the mission for Klopp is straightforward from their own perspective, really: win well and don’t concede.
Liverpool have kept 11 clean sheets in 22 games this season but just one in the Champions League while Napoli have only failed to score in three of their 20 matches in all competitions and also warmed up for this tie with a 4-0 victory, beating Frosinone on Saturday.
The hosts will have Sadio Mane fit and likely to start after he recovered from a foot injury and played the final 25 minutes against Bournemouth. But with Dejan Lovren a doubt and Joe Gomez out until the new year, Klopp may have to start Joel Matip at centre-back.
For Napoli, they need to avoid defeat but can still progress if they lose, providing PSG are beaten by Red Star. Carlo Ancelotti’s side, however, are unbeaten in 12 matches and has all his major players fit with centre-back Vlad Chiriches and attacking midfielder Simone Verdi his only absentees.
Fansbet are committed to giving 50 per cent of their net profits back to fans. To find out more about how they do it, click here!
And is that is not enough check out our Fan Boosts here. The best odds and an unrivalled range of special bets!
Fansbet, about Fans, by fans, for fans.
*odds subject to change.
Leave a comment
Follow FB_WHISPERS on Twitter