Barca looks to bounce back in Champions League

Updated 19 November 2012
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Barca looks to bounce back in Champions League

LONDON: Humbled by Celtic in the latest shock result in the Champions League, competition favorite Barcelona attempts for the second time to seal a place in the knockout stage in Russia.
The Champions League has thrown up a string of unpredictable scorelines this season and none bigger than Barca’s 2-1 loss in Glasgow two weeks ago, preventing the Spanish giants joining FC Porto, Malaga and Manchester United in the last 16 with two games to spare.
Lionel Messi and his team still need one more victory to advance in Group G but achieving that at Spartak Moscow today is far from guaranteed, given that Barcelona has only won once in six trips to Russia.
“We must not drop our guard or relax,” Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta. “Up to this point, our start to the season has been sustained and sensational. But we must continue as we’ve begun.”
While Barcelona is still a big favorite to progress, the same can’t be said of a number of Europe’s big guns.
Manchester City has been on the cusp of elimination for a month now and the fate of the English champions, who are bottom of Group D on just two points from four games, will be sealed if they fail to beat Real Madrid at home Wednesday in the most high-profile clash of the fifth round of group games.
A win for Madrid would likely take it through, although Jose Mourinho’s side is also stumbling after picking up just one point from its double-header with silky German side Borussia Dortmund.
“We will play with practically our season on the line,” Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. “As a football player, those are the kind of games you live for.”
Dortmund is the group leader and needs only a point at Ajax to advance.
Chelsea is engaged in a tough three-way fight for the two qualification spots in Group E, and a loss in Juventus on Tuesday will leave the holders’ destiny out of their hands. Only one point separates Chelsea, Juventus and group leader Shakhtar Donetsk, which could qualify with a win at FC Nordsjaelland.
AC Milan needs a win in Anderlecht tomorrow if the struggling Italian side isn’t to face the serious prospect of elimination from Group C, while the winner of Tuesday’s match between Valencia and last season’s runner-up Bayern Munich will qualify in Group F.

Paris Saint-Germain requires just a point at Dynamo Kiev to join FC Porto in the next round from Group A, while Schalke and Arsenal will qualify from Group B if they beat Olympiakos and Montpellier, respectively.
Messi, the prolific Argentina forward, has tried to make Barcelona forget about its disappointment in Scotland by maintaining his remarkable run of scoring form.
His double in the 3-1 win at Real Zaragoza on Saturday took his 2012 tally to 78 in 2012, moving within seven of former Germany striker Gerd Mueller’s all-time record of goals in a calendar year, set in 1972. Last week, Messi scored another double to move past Pele into second place (75 goals in 1958).
However, coach Tito Vilanova has made a point of saying his squad’s success is more down to teamwork than the individual brilliance of its star player.
“We need all of our players, because just one man can’t win you the match,” Vilanova said.
Barca has already spoken of Messi’s hunger to beat Raul Gonzalez’s tally of 71 goals as the all-time highest scorer in the Champions League. Currently, Messi is third with 54, behind Ruud van Nistelrooy (56).
Vilanova welcomed back the central-defensive pairing of Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol at the weekend, which should shore up a back line that looked exposed against Celtic.
A stoppage-time winner in a 3-2 victory over Shakhtar kept Chelsea in contention last time out, but there remains the genuine possibility that the English team could become he first reigning champion to fail to make the knockout stage.
The Blues are in their first rut of the campaign, having won just two points from their last four Premier League games.
“We’ve been in this position before. For some reason, November for our club is a bad month and it seems to again be the case this year,” Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo said. “We have to try and address that.”


LIVE: Tunisia 1-4 Belgium. Double for Lukaku puts Eagles of Carthage on brink of early exit.

Updated 10 min 3 sec ago
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LIVE: Tunisia 1-4 Belgium. Double for Lukaku puts Eagles of Carthage on brink of early exit.

4:38PM: A glimmer of hope for anyone facing Belgium in this World Cup will be how vulnerable they can be at the back. Fantastic going forward, but defensively they are not the finished article...

 

4.30PM: It's starting to look like a training game for Belgium now, who are finally showing the sort of form we expect from such a talented squad. Best two displays from one team of the World Cup so far? We think so...

 

 

4.15PM: GOAL FOR BELGIUM: Any hopes Tunisia had of saving their World Cup have been snuffed out by Eden Hazard, who strikes home with the goalkeeper beaten to put Belgium 4-1 up. Unless Panama pull off a miracle tomorrow, you feel Tunisia are out...

4.10PM: Tunisia with a promising attack, but the move breaks down at the vital moment. Tunisia doing the right thing here, they have to attack and find two goals. Quickly...

3.48PM: HALF-TIME - While they had their moments, Tunisia were second best during that first period. Belgium could have perhaps got a couple more and the Eagles of Carthage have it all to do now. 

3.47PM: GOAL FOR BELGIUM - Moments after he should have got a goal Lukaku finds the back of the net, with a neat dink over the Mustafa following a great ball from Meunier. 

3.40PM: Again there is a lot to like about this Tunisian performance. Khazri is coming more and more intot he game and they are showng more ambition in the first 40 minutes than they did in the entire match against England. 

3.37PM: LOTS OF SUPPORT BACK HOME

 

 

 

3.32PM: TUNISIA COMING BACK INTO IT - Sassi and Khazri both have good shots saved during a period of dominance for Tunisia. Things are looking better for the North Africans. 

3.30PM: The Tunisia defence is being opened up at will here. Lukaku should have got his second and Belgium's third but a heavy touch proves his undoing. 

3.25PM: COMEBACK ON THE CARDS?

 

3.22PM: SUBSTITUTION -  Bronn is down hurt after blocking a shot, it looks like his knee buckled at a horrible angle. He is replaced by Hamdi Naguez.

3.17PM: GOAL FOR TUNISIA -  What a response! Bronn gets his head on the end of a Khazri freekick - GAME BACK ON! 

3.15PM: GOAL FOR BELGIUM -  It is all too easy for Belgium as Lukaku makes a pretty simple run yet finds himself in acres of space before drilling the ball leftfooted into the bottom corner. THis is not the start Tunisia were looking for. 

3.11PM: Almost another for Belgium as Lukaku does well down the right to set uop Hazard whose poor shot is easily saved by Mustapha.

3.10PM: FRUSTRATED FAN

 

3.08PM: Tunisia now know what they need to do, they cannot just sit back and wait for things to happen, they need to take the game to Belgium or face an early exit. 

3.05PM: GOAL FOR BELGIUM. Hazard makes no mistake from the spot, slotting the ball home for his 23rd international strike and an early lead for the favorites. 

3.05PM: PENALTY TO BELGIUM. Ben Youssef faouls the rampaging Hazard on the right side of the area and the referee has no hesitation to point to the spot. It's referred to the VAR who confimrs the bad challenge took place in the area. 

3.01PM: Twenty seconds gone and already Tunisia have dished out a hard challenge on Hazard, setting their stall out for the rest of the match. Belgium waste the resulting free-kick. 

3PM: The nationals anthems are being sung with gusto in Moscow. Can the passion in their voices be matched by passion and panache on the pitch? 

2.45PM: THE MEN TUNISIA NEED TO STOP - Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne are the main threats facing the Eagles of Carthage today. Can they keep them quiet? 

 

 

2.42PM: Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul swapped his goalkeeper with Farouk Mustapha taking over from Mouez Hassen, who played in the opening 2-1 defeat to England, failing to stop Kane scoring the late winner for the Three Lions.
In the only other change, Troyes midfielder Saif-Eddine Khaoui replaced Naim Sliti in the middle of the park for Tunisia.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez started with the same team which beat Panama for Saturday's World Cup group match against Tunisia in Moscow.
Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku is looking to add to the two goals he scored in their opening 3-0 rout of Panama for the clash at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow.

2.40PM: TEAMS ANNOUNCED. 

BELGIUM - Thibaut Courtois; Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Jan Vertonghen; Thomas Meunier, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco; Eden Hazard (capt), Dries Mertens; Romelu Lukaku

TUNISIA - Farouk Mustapha; Syam Ben Youssef, Yassine Meriah, Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, Ali Maaloul; Dylan Bronn, Ellyes Skhiri, Ferjani Sassi; Saif-Eddine Khaoui, Wahbi Khazri (capt), Anice Badri

2.30PM: The Eagles of Carthage suffered last-minute heartache against England on Monday, when a Harry Kane header in injury-time sealed a 2-1 win for his side in the opening clash of Group G.

Nabil Maaloul’s men now face highly fancied Belgium knowing another defeat would end their interest in the tournament after just one game. They looked solid, without ever being spectacular against England. Can they find another gear and cause a shock against Eden Hazard and Co?