Chelsea seeks to overcome Champions League blues

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PLAYER TO WATCH: Chelsea will bank on Nicolas Anelka’s form to go through to the next stage.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Chelsea will bank on Nicolas Anelka’s form to go through to the next stage.

LONDON: The final three spots in the second round of the Champions League will be filled after this week’s final round of group matches, with Chelsea unexpectedly among those still trying to qualify.

With 13 clubs already through to the next round, a haul of just one point from two matches has left Chelsea vying with AS Roma and Bordeaux for one of Group A’s top two spots.

Roma needs a draw

Roma and Chelsea will both qualify unless Bordeaux win in Rome. Should that happen, Bordeaux would advance and Chelsea would join provided it beats Cluj. However, if Chelsea loses or draw, Roma could afford to lose and still qualify. Cluj is out and cannot even reach third place and the UEFA Cup.

The Blues are under pressure because of their curious home form this season, with a first Premier League loss in four years at Stamford Bridge swiftly followed by a second. But Chelsea has at least managed to win both its home matches in the Champions League and hosts FCR Cluj on Tuesday.

Chelsea’s Champions League form has been almost the total reverse of that in the Premier League, where its perfect away record has compensated for shaky home form to leave it second in the standings. The Blues won 2-0 at Bolton on Saturday, with Nicolas Anelka again set to start up front after scoring his 15th goal of the season.

Bordeaux needs victory at a Roma team that needs only a draw to be sure.

Roma has rallied from a dismal start to the season with four straight Serie ‘A’ wins.

Roma is the only Italian team unsure of its status in the competition, with Inter Milan and Juventus already sure to advance.

Also on Tuesday, in-form Barcelona hosts Shakhtar Donetsk with first place in Group ‘C’ already secure, while last-place FC Basel hosts also-qualified Sporting Lisbon. Group ‘D’ qualifiers Atletico Madrid and Liverpool are at Marseille and PSV Eindhoven respectively.

The fixtures: Playing on Tuesday: Group ‘A’: Chelsea v CFR Cluj; AS Roma v Girondins Bordeaux; Group ‘B’ Panathanaikos v Anorthosis Famagusta; Werder Bremen v Inter Milan. Group ‘C’: Basel v Sporting; Barcelona v Shakhtar Donetsk. Group ‘D’: PSV Eindhoven v Liverpool; Olympique Marseille v Atletico Madrid.

Playing on Wednesday: Group ‘E’: Manchester United v AaB Aalborg; Celtic v Villarreal. Group ‘F’: Steaua Bucharest v Fiorentina Olympique; Lyon v Bayern Munich. Group ‘G’: Porto v Arsenal; Dynamo Kiev v Fenerbahce. Group H: Juventus v BATE Borisov; Real Madrid v Zenit St. Petersburg. — Agencies

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