United staring at Champions League elimination

Paris : Manchester United is staring early Champions League elimination in the face in its home match against Villarreal that would have serious on-and off-pitch consequences. The majority of the other clubs in the 32-team group phase are also fighting to make the knockout stages but United has a proud record to keep up.

For the first time since 1994-95, United could be out of the competition before Christmas that could cost the club up to �15 million but it would be a heavy blow in footballing as well as financial terms.

In Group A, Bayern Munich and Juventus are battling for the top two spots and 1995 European champion Ajax has still to earn its last 16 berth from Group B with Arsenal already through with two matches left.

Barcelona, which hosts Germany's Werder Bremen in Group C, is having a marvellous season with qualification for the Champions League last 16 virtually assured.

For United, defeat at the hands of Villarreal coupled with a win for Lille over Benfica at the Stade de France would end United's interest in the competition, depriving the club of revenues that its new owners, the Glazer family, can scarcely afford to do without. Meanwhile Juventus midfielder Pavel Nedved is fired up for their Champions League encounter against Belgian side Bruges where a point will see the Turin giants safely through to the last 16.

Nedved excited

Nedved is still excited at having recently helped the Czech Republic to qualify for its first World Cup finals, in Germany next year, but his footballing ambitions don't stop there. The talented midfielder — who was instrumental in Juventus's 4-1 drubbing of Roma in Italy's Serie A on Saturday — is determined to lift the trophy for Europe's premier club competition. ``I desperately want to win the Champions League,'' said the 33-year-old midfielder. — AFP