|Basel players enroute a training session, on Monday. The Swiss club host Chelsea on Tuesday
Berne: The hopes of Italy’s two Champions League teams are all on a knife-edge and Tuesday’s matches will go a long way in deciding which, if any, of AC Milan and Napoli reach the last 16.
Of the two teams, Napoli have been far more impressive and need only a point but, paradoxically, may still struggle with two tough games to come and their form slipping.
Elsewhere, Chelsea need one point from a relatively straightforward game to qualify and join Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona who are already through. In contrast, debutants Austria Vienna will attempt to score their first goal of the competition when they visit Porto.
Napoli, on nine points are a draw away from qualifying in Group F, but visit last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund (six) and must then host Arsenal (nine) in their final game.
Two successive Serie A defeats have dented the confidence of Rafael Benitez’ side, while Borussia are smarting from Saturday’s 0-3 home defeat by arch-rivals Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.
Arsenal’s path into the looks to be a safe one with a home game against rock bottom Olympique Marseille coming up on Tuesday but they are taking nothing for granted.
The Londoners top Group F with nine points from four matches, the same as second-placed Napoli and three more than Borussia Dortmund.
Should Arsenal beat Marseille and Dortmund fail to defeat Napoli, Arsene Wenger’s side would be guaranteed to qualify with a game to spare.
Midfielder Santi Cazorla has warned against complacency especially with a trip to Naples concluding the group stages.
“The main problem I see is everyone thinks it’s going to be an easy game for us to win,” the Spaniard told the club’s website after Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Southampton also kept his side top of the Premier League.
“There is nothing at stake for Marseille because they have zero points but they are going to make things difficult for us. It may be tough and if we’re not careful we might slip up and then we might not be able to get through to the next round.
“We need to understand it’s a vital match,” said Cazorla. “If we obtaine a bad result then it would make things very complicated for us to go to Napoli and win there.”
AC Milan, second in Group H with five points, visit Celtic on Tuesday, a match they would usually expect to win but which has become a daunting prospect thanks to the crisis at the seven-time champions.
A seven-match winless run has left coach Massimiliano Allegri’s job the subject of constant speculation and chief executive Adriano Galliani’s post is also seen to be under threat after 27 years.
“We have to get out of this all together,” said Allegri after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to 10-man Genoa in which Balotelli missed a penalty. There are still many points up for grabs and we have to get through to the next round of the Champions League. We have to make things happen in our favour.”
In Group E, Chelsea (nine) need a point away to FC Basel (five). Although the London side were humbled at home by their opponents earlier in the group, the Swiss champions have since lost momentum.
Bundesliga side Schalke 04 (six), who visit winless former champions Steaua Bucharest, look more likely to go through especially as they host Basel in their final game.
- Group E: Basel vs Chelsea; Steaua Bucharest vs Schalke
- Group F: Borussia Dortmund vs Napoli; Arsenal vs Olympique Marseille
- Group G: Zenit St Petersburg vs Atletico Madrid; Porto vs Austria Vienna
- Group H: Ajax Amsterdam vs Barcelona; Celtic vs AC Milan