UCL preview: Will Chelsea, Liverpool clinch?
Half of the Premier League’s entrants into the UEFA Champions League have advanced to the knockout rounds.
The other two can follow suit on Tuesday, with Chelsea playing in the early pair of matches and Liverpool in the sextet of late kickoffs.
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Chelsea needs to beat Valencia in Spain, ensuring a head-to-head advantage if both finished on 10 points, while Liverpool can win its group with a win over Napoli at Anfield. The Reds can also advance if Red Bull Salzburg fails to beat Genk.
The Blues lost at home to Valencia on Matchday 1, and manager Frank Lampard says the intensity is higher because of that loss despite taking 4 of 6 points from Ajax and beating Lille.
“The loss in the first game put us in this position,” he said, via Football.London. “I don’t think the Ajax draw did, it was losing a game at home on day one, when we should have got a result for sure. So what we’ve done really is bring that knockout football slightly earlier in the competition. That’s no big problem. Obviously it will be a problem if we lose but the reality is at this level you’re going to come to that kind of conundrum at some point where it will be like this, so that is a big test for us.”
Callum Hudson-Odoi and Antonio Rudiger remain out for the Blues. American winger Christian Pulisic remains in contention to start, having assisted in both of his UCL outings for the Blues.
Over to Liverpool, where the Premier League leaders will be happy to take the next step toward defending their UCL title.
The Reds host a wounded Napoli which has had all sorts of controversy this season, with talk of Carlo Ancelotti being on the hot seat after his players and he refused to attend a training camp ordered by team ownership after the last UCL match day.
Napoli is a point behind the Reds, and would love to get a win to ensure its place in the knockout rounds while keeping the proverbial wolves at bay.
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“What we expect it is will make them stronger,” Klopp said, via The Liverpool Echo. “I have really not a proper idea about what happened but if I was part of the team as a player I would try to bring the group together and fight against all the things from outside. Carlo is the most experienced manager in world football and is used to dealing with difficult situations so he will make the best of it, 100%. But, saying that, we have to make sure tomorrow night from the first second that this is a different place again.”
Elsewhere, Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund square off for the Group F driver’s seat at the Camp Nou, while Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg meets Genk in a pivotal match for its European hopes.
Wednesday’s Champions League schedule
Liverpool v. Napoli -- 3 p.m. ET
Genk v. Red Bull Salzburg -- 3 p.m. ET
Slavia Prague v. Inter Milan -- 3 p.m. ET
Barcelona v. Borussia Dortmund -- 3 p.m. ET
Zenit Saint-Petersburg v. Lyon -- 12:55 p.m. ET
RB Leipzig v. Benfica -- 3 p.m. ET
Valencia v. Chelsea -- 12:55 p.m. ET
Lille v. Ajax -- 3 p.m. ET