Chelsea needs big helping hand for last-16 ticket

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Updated 04 December 2012
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Chelsea needs big helping hand for last-16 ticket

LONDON: Six clubs enter this week’s final round of Champions League group matches harboring hopes of grabbing one of the three last-16 places still up for grabs although for holders Chelsea their fate is beyond their control.
The Londoners are vying with Juventus for the second qualifying spot from Group E but even if they beat Nordsjaelland at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday they will become the first champions to go out at the group stage if the Italians avoid defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez, an unpopular choice with the fans after he succeeded the sacked Roberto Di Matteo 12 days ago, has done little to win the supporters over after losing one and drawing two of his three games in charge.
“We have to improve on the pitch in order for the fans to be happy,” Benitez told the club website (www.chelseafc.com).
“We have experienced players who have played at this level for a long time. You can see how they train and it’s clear they want to improve.”
Celtic and Benfica still have a chance to join Group G winners Barcelona in the knockout rounds while Galatasaray or CFR Cluj will end Group H as runners-up.
For the other teams already assured of a place in the last-16 draw on Dec. 20, their final matches will determine whether they progress as group winners.
Even some of those with no chance of progressing will be eyeing consolation prizes in the Europa League.
Chelsea’s 3-0 defeat by Juventus last month left their hopes of surviving Group E hanging by a thread.
The move to replace Di Matteo with Benitez was designed to try and re-ignite a fading season that had begun in style but instead the club are still stuck in a downward spiral that gathered pace at the weekend when Chelsea were beaten 3-1 by West Ham United.
The Stamford Bridge club are without a victory in seven matches and discontent is rife as fans openly vent their frustration at the decision to replace the Champions League-winning Di Matteo.
While Shakhtar are formidable opponents at home, Juventus will go there full of confidence after a 3-0 win against Torino on Saturday cemented their place at the top of Serie A. Victory would also see Juventus go through as group winners.
The Italians were held 1-1 by Ukrainians Shakhtar in October and Juve midfielder Claudio Marchisio said he was well aware of the dangers that lurk in Donetsk.
“We can’t go on to the pitch hoping to take it easy,” he said. “We’ve got to play like Juve always do.
“Saturday’s win gives us a lot of motivation to face Shakhtar who I believe are the toughest team in the group.”
Scotland’s sole representatives Celtic will reach the last-16 for the first time since 2008 if they better Benfica’s result at Barcelona when they host Spartak Moscow on Wednesday.
“We have to rise to the occasion. We have to win the game,” said Celtic manager Neil Lennon after his weakened side were surprisingly held 1-1 by Arbroath in the Scottish Cup at the weekend.
Turkish side Galatasaray look favorites to win their scrap for the Group H runners-up spot as they travel to bottom club Braga needing to match what Romanians Cluj manage against leaders Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
The only issue to be resolved in Paris on Tuesday is whether Paris St. Germain can overtake Porto with a victory over the Group A leaders.
Bayern Munich will also guarantee top spot in Group F ahead of Valencia with victory against BATE Borisov on Wednesday.
Manchester City have been eliminated from the group stage for the second year running and will even miss out on the Europa League if they fail to triumph at Group D winners Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.
Even if City win, Ajax Amsterdam will still take third place if they upset group runners-up Real Madrid.
A Europa League spot is also available in Group C with Zenit St. Petersburg and Anderlecht locked together on four points going into their away games against runners-up AC Milan and group winners Malaga respectively.


LeBron James' last-second shot gives Cavs 98-95 win over Pacers in Game 5

James pushes the Cavaliers within one victory of advancing in the Eastern Conference playoffs. (Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 26 April 2018
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LeBron James' last-second shot gives Cavs 98-95 win over Pacers in Game 5

  • James' 3-pointer buzzer beater puts Cavaliers within one victory of advancing in the Eastern Conference playoffs
  • James finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists.

CLEVELAND: LeBron James hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, a crowning moment for another brilliant performance, to give Cleveland a 98-95 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night in Game 5, putting the Cavaliers within one victory of advancing in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Moments after blocking Victor Oladipo’s possible go-ahead driving layup, James caught the inbounds pass, took two dribbles and dropped the winner over Thaddeus Young.
As Cleveland’s sellout crowd exploded, James hugged rookie teammate Cedi Osman before jumping on the scorer’s table to celebrate another of those moments that will define his career.
James finished with 44 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and went 15 of 15 from the line.
Kyle Korver added 19 points and Cleveland’s much-maligned defense tightened just in time as the Cavaliers seized their first lead in the first-round series after being down 1-0 and 2-1.
Cleveland can close out Indiana with a win Friday night in Indianapolis.
Domantas Sabonis scored 22 points, and Young had 16 for the Pacers, who battled back to tie it 95-all on Sabonis’ 15-foot jumper with 33 seconds left. Indiana, which held Cleveland without a field goal for more than seven minutes during their fourth-quarter rally forced James into a turnover and had a chance to re-take the lead.
Oladipo, who shot just 2 of 15, drove the left side and was at the rim when James swooped in for a block on a play reminiscent of his Game 7 block on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 NBA Finals.
Oladipo’s shooting woes continued. He’s only 12 of 50 from the field in the last three games. He scored 32 in the Pacers’ Game 1 win, but the Cavs have been double-teaming him ever since.
The third quarter has been a major problem for Cleveland all season. The Cavs had tried everything to try and shake things up after halftime, even doing layup lines at the break in Game 4 like a high school squad.
Turns out, all it took was some defensive intensity.
Down by seven at half, the Cavs swarmed the Pacers in the third quarter, forcing five turnovers in the first six minutes and holding Indiana to one field goal over the first 6:52 while opening with a 19-3 run.
Cleveland outscored Indiana 32-17 in the third, when the Pacers shot just 5 for 16 (31 percent) and committed seven turnovers.
The Cavs were again without starting point guard George Hill, who missed his second straight game with back spasms.
DWYANE’S WORLD
James had enough to worry about with the Pacers that he didn’t want to discuss close friend Dwyane Wade’s future.
Miami’s star is mulling retirement after the Heat were eliminated Tuesday in Philadelphia. James spent four years playing in Miami with Wade, who began this season with the Cavs before being traded.
James said that following his last game against Wade he told him, “’If it’s like our last time going against each other, then it’s been everything and more.” James wants to wait for Wade to make his decision and will then “give a more in-depth analysis of his career if he decides to hang ‘em up.”
TIP-INS:
Pacers: Following Lance Stephenson’s aggressive, wrestling-like takedown of Jeff Green in the waning moments of Game 4, coach Nate McMillan said he reminded the fiery forward to be careful. “The officials are going to be watching that, Lance knows that and there are some times where I think they (the Cavs) are taking advantage.” ... Dropped to 2-12 in their last 14 games in Cleveland. ... James’ triple-double in Game 4 was the sixth against Indiana in the playoffs. James has done it to the Pacers three times.
Cavaliers: With his 21st 40-point game in the playoff, James tied the logo — Jerry West — for the second-most all-time. Michael Jordan scored at least 40 in 38 postseason games. .... Hill’s back has improved in the past few days, but he didn’t look close to playing while sitting stiffly in his locker-room chair before the game. ... Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown sat courtside.
UP NEXT
Game 6 is Friday night at Indianapolis.