| Arsenalís Ashley Cole (left) and goalkeeper Martin Taylor during a training session at Arsenalís training ground in Hertfordshire on Monday. The Gunners take on Auxerre in their Champions League Group A match on Tuesday. (AFP)
London: In the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich appeared to be running away with a five point lead. Facing the second hurdle of the Champions League on Wednesday, however, Bayern look like they are falling flat.
Forced to qualify for the group stages, the four-time winners are struggling after two losses and a tie. The team visits five-time titlist AC Milan, who top group G with a maximum nine points from three games.
If Bayern lose again and second place Deportivo de La Coruna win at French club Lens, they may end up going out much earlier than expected. Bayern won 1-0 at Hansa Rostock in the League Saturday and coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said it was the ideal boost before the visit to Milan.
By contrast, Milan, Arsenal, Manchester United, Valencia and Barcelona all look set to clinch places in the second phase of group games with two matches to spare. All have maximum points from three games while nine-time champion Real Madrid could join them despite tying their last game.
Meanwhile, Rivaldo has been ruled out of Tuesdayís clash. The Milan star felt pain in his right thigh during the 4-1 win at Atalanta on Sunday and although there was no muscular damage, doctors have decided to rest him.
English champions Arsenal have yet to concede a goal as they face French club Auxerre at Highbury in group A on Tuesday. Two teams qualify from each group and Arsene Wengerís team already had an eight point lead over third place Auxerre.
Borussia Dortmund are favourites to get the other place from the group and hosts last-place PSV Eindhoven.
Group B leaders Valencia have just a five point lead over Liverpool and Basle, but a victory in Switzerland will put the team out of range of the third place Swiss team.
Liverpool go to Moscow to play last place Spartak, having beaten the Russians 5-0 at Anfield and leaving them without a goal or a point. Emile Heskey is fit to make the journey but Gerard Houllierís team will be forced to play without Steven Gerrard who suffered a hip injury in Englandís 2-2 tie with Macedonia on Wednesday.
Manchester United take a six point lead to Olympiakos on Wednesday and need only a point to make sure of qualifying from group F. That means manager Alex Ferguson has no need to rush Dutch striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy back into action after his hamstring problems.
Barcelona are five points ahead in group H and hope to clinch a second phase spot by beating last place Lokomotiv Moscow at home irrespective of the result between second place Galatasaray of Turkey and third place Brugge who meet in Belgium.
Real Madrid should also join the early qualifiers by beating Aek Athens at home despite being held to a 3-3 tie in Greece.
The group C leaders may give Ronaldo his first appearance in the competition as they go into the game with seven points from two wins and a tie. Second place AS Roma host Belgiumís Racing Genk in the other game and should be confident of gaining the other qualifying spot.
Juventus hold only a two-point lead at the top of group E but go to last place Newcastle who are all but eliminated. With seven points Juve are ahead of Uefa Cup holders Feyenoord who visit Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday and have just a one point lead over the Ukrainians.
Group D is even more wide open with French champions Lyon (six points) two ahead of Inter Milan and Ajax Amsterdam. Lyon host Inter on Tuesday when four-time champions Ajax welcome last place Rosenborg of Norway.