The Telegraph
Tuesday , December 4 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arsenal aim for top spot

- City to play for Europa league berth; Real to face Ajax

London: Arsenal will hope to finish at the top of the group on Tuesday, when they face Olympiakos in the Champions League.

The last time Arsenal had to settle for the runner-up spot in group play, in 2010, they were drawn against Barcelona in the last 16 and were beaten over two legs by the eventual champions.

To finish at the top of Group B, Arsenal must win in Greece and rely on last-place Montpellier to take points off Schalke in France.

The fight for first place keeps alive any real interest in the group, with Olympiakos assured of third place and a spot in the Europa League.

In Dortmund, Manchester City need to win against Borussia Dortmund and even that may not be enough for the English champion to stay in a European competition this season. City are already out of the Champions League and the best they can hope for is a place in the Europa League. Even that is not entirely in their hands.

Borussia Dortmund are assured of winning Group D and Real Madrid are through as the second-place team. In order to progress to the much less glamorous Europa League, City must beat Dortmund and hope for Ajax not to win in Madrid the same night.

Amsterdam will host the final of the Europa League in May so Ajax will have an extra motive to win in Madrid.

Going into the final round of group matches, Dortmund have 11 points, Real eight, Ajax four and City three.

“Our strikers aren’t firing on all cylinders at the moment and not scoring enough goals, but they worked hard today and they will have periods like that during the season,” coach Roberto Mancini said after the draw with Everton.

Defender Maicon said City was making progress and will win the Champions League — eventually. “The Europa League is important to us, so we need to try to stay in Europe until the end of the season if we can,” Maicon said.

Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho refused to add to the media speculations surrounding his future as Real Madrid coach on Monday, but failed to nip it in the bud when questioned in the run up to the visit of Ajax.

The self-styled ‘Special One’ agreed a two-year contract extension with Madrid which tied him until 2016 back in May, but after breaking records to win the La Liga title last season has seen his side struggle to replicate that form this year.

A Madrid-based sports daily said on Monday Mourinho was planning to leave the club at the end of the season, his third in the Spanish capital. “I am not going to speak about this. Speak to your colleague about it, the one who has written the story,” Mourinho countered with his standard deadpan look at a news conference.

Real have qualified for the last 16 as the second placed side in Champions League Group D behind Borussia Dortmund. They host Ajax in their final group match.

Paris St Germain coach Carlo Ancelotti warned his players to get their act together as he prepared for the Group A finale at home to Porto.

Both clubs have already qualified for the last 16 and the game will decide who finishes top of the group, with Porto on 13 points from five matches and PSG one point adrift in second spot.

PSG, who spent around $195.09 million on transfers in the close season, suffered their third defeat in five Ligue 1 games when they lost 2-1 at mid-table Nice on Saturday.

The result angered Ancelotti and left his fourth-placed team five points adrift of leaders Olympique Lyon.

“The players have to start taking responsibility,” the Italian told reporters. “Everyone has to be serious about this.

“I have got a feeling the players are not all focused on the game plan nor on the club's project,” added Ancelotti before warning of ‘radical solutions’ if they do not listen to his pleas.

PSG will again rely on Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has been in inspired form in a new playmaker's role in the Champions League, setting up five of the club's last six goals in the competition. (Agencies)