English clubs fighting for Champions League

Man United, Chelsea, Man City facing uncertain Champions League fate as group stage concludes

After providing the Champions League with half its finalists over the last seven years, England could face the embarrassment of having just one team in the knockout round when the group stage concludes this week.

Manchester United needs only to avoid defeat at FC Basel to join Arsenal among the last 16 sides, but Chelsea and Premier League leader Manchester City are both vulnerable in their final group matches.

Chelsea is likely to need a victory over in-form Valencia to progress, while even a win over four-time European champion Bayern Munich may not be enough to take City through.

There are a total seven places still up for grabs, with Marseille and Ajax also in contention to fill them.

With three final appearances in the past four years, Manchester United were expected to be the first English team to advance to the next round. But Arsenal clinched progress last week with victory over Borussia Dortmund and United still must take at least a point Wednesday against a Basel side that came from 2-0 down to draw 3-3 at Old Trafford in September.

"A lot of people, including opposition teams, underestimate us," Basel midfielder Scott Chipperfield said. "But we have a good squad and a lot of us have played international football. In the Champions League, we play with an attitude of having nothing to lose.

"Nobody expects us to do well, so we like to go out there and play entertaining football."

United manager Alex Ferguson is hoping Basel's need to win its final Group C match means there will be space to attack.

"The only advantage is they do need to win and they have to try to beat us," Ferguson said. "We've always kept good possession of the ball and made that a dominating factor of our game. It can take the temperature out of the game."

United will be without Javier Hernandez after the Mexico striker was hurt in Saturday's 1-0 Premier League win at Aston Villa. He is expected to be fit in time for the latter stages if the team progresses.

Benfica also needs a draw to be sure of progress from Group C when the Portuguese side hosts eliminated Otelul Galati.

Chelsea, runner-up in 2008 to United, could progress with as little as a 0-0 draw Tuesday if Group E leader Bayer Leverkusen beats last-place Genk. But Leverkusen has already advanced and may take its foot off the gas, so the Blues must win to be sure.

"They are favorites because they are one of the world's major clubs," Valencia defender Adil Rami said. "But they are also going to be under a lot of pressure."

Chelsea trained without Jose Bosingwa, Nicolas Anelka and Alex on Monday, with Bosingwa injured and Branislav Ivanovic likely to play at right-back. Anelka and Alex have been made to train separately after asking for transfers.

Valencia is also targeting the next round after routing Genk 7-0 two weeks ago to join Chelsea on eight points and secure a superior goal difference.

"They could have a small advantage since they are playing at home," Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves said. "But when the game begins, everything can change."

With Napoli expected to beat Villarreal, City's expensively assembled squad must beat Group A winner Bayern to have any chance of progress. City is cruising unbeaten at the top of the Premier League but has struggled to adjust in its first Champions League season.

Edinson Cavani scored twice and Ezequiel Lavezzi and Blerim Dzemaili were also on target as Napoli warmed up for its trip to Spain by beating last-place Lecce 4-2 in Serie A on Saturday — ending a four-match winless streak in the Italian league.

"It's going to be the most important match of the year," Lavezzi said. "This win over Lecce can help increase our self-confidence."

Villarreal eliminated Napoli from last season's Europa League but the injury-hit Spanish club is coming off a 1-0 defeat at Racing Santander — which had been bottom of the Spanish standings — that left it just two points above the relegation zone.

"We have to show more anger, courage and effort," coach Juan Carlos Garrido said.

Lille is among three clubs chasing progress behind Inter Milan in Group B. Victory over Trabzonspor would take Lille through ahead of the Turkish club and CSKA Moscow.

Lille coach Rudi Garcia will be without Brazilian striker Tulio De Melo because of a torn hamstring and is sweating over the fitness of central midfielder Benoit Pedretti. Joe Cole and Eden Hazard are likely to start in midfield, with Moussa Sow up front.

"It's an important match for the club and for the players," midfielder Florent Balmont said. "We owe it to ourselves to win and to carry on in this competition."

Marseille can finish as Group F runner-up to Arsenal with victory at Borussia Dortmund. Any other result could let Olympiakos sneak into second place.

Marseille will be without striker Andre-Pierre Gignac because of a groin injury but should be boosted by the return of key striker Loic Remy, who sat Friday's 2-1 win at Caen after twisting his ankle last week.

Group H is already settled — defending champion Barcelona has won the group and AC Milan will advance in second place — but a place in both Group D and G is still open.

Zenit St. Petersburg and FC Porto go head to head to see which of them will advance from Group G with APOEL, the first Cypriot side ever to make the knockout rounds. Ajax needs only a point to be sure in Group D but is up against record nine-time European champion Real Madrid.

The Spanish league leader won 3-0 at Sporting Gijon on Saturday with goals from Angel Di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo.

Luckily for Ajax, Madrid already has an eye on next weekend's "clasico" against second-place Barcelona.

"Imagine if we had four injuries in Amsterdam," Madrid captain Iker Casillas said.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has only called up six first-team players for the game against BATE Borisov, resting stars Lionel Messi, David Villa, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta among others.

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