Manchester United could go out of Champions League
ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 08, 2015 08:50 AM
Manchester United's Anthony Martial, right, and Juan Mata react after a missed opportunity during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
AP Sports Writer
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Bastian Schweinsteiger's return to Germany could be a tricky affair.
Three-time winner Manchester United could be eliminated from the Champions League with a loss in Wolfsburg on Tuesday. After a distinguished career in Bayern Munich, Schweinsteiger is now with Manchester United.
Wolfsburg leads Group B by a point over Manchester United and only needs a draw to advance to the knockout stage. But Dieter Hecking's team has to rebound quickly after a stunning loss in the Bundesliga to Borussia Dortmund.
Wolfsburg's 29-game unbeaten run at home came to an end in dramatic fashion when Shinji Kagawa scored Borussia Dortmund's winner in the 93rd minute, two minutes after Ricardo Rodriguez had equalized on Saturday.
"It's very annoying," said Hecking, whose team is seeking to progress beyond the group stage for the first time.
"We just have to shake it off really quickly," goalkeeper and captain Diego Benaglio said.
A win would secure first place in the group for Wolfsburg.
"We are playing to win," Hecking said, dismissing suggestions of a trying to go for a draw.
United would also win the group with a victory and will advance if both group matches are drawn.
PSV Eindhoven hosts CSKA Moscow in the other match. The Dutch team is a point behind United and will go through if it does better than Louis van Gaal's side thanks to its superior head-to-head record. If PSV wins and the other game is drawn, PSV and Wolfsburg will be split for first place on overall goal difference as their head-to-head is equal.
CSKA will finish third with a win in Eindhoven, ahead of PSV on head-to-head.
Captain and star striker Wayne Rooney is set to be missing for Man United because of injury, a major blow to a team badly struggling for goals this season.
United has drawn 0-0 in five of its last nine games in all competitions, leading to widespread criticism of the pedestrian style of attacking play under Van Gaal.
Rooney has been far from his best this season, but United fans would surely prefer to be with the England captain than without him for a game the team probably has to score in — and win.
"We have to score, so we must score," said Van Gaal, who is blaming United's missing cutting edge on a lack of both composure and luck. "We have to play against a very good team, but still we can do that."
United will rely heavily on Anthony Martial, the only fit out-and-out striker in the squad.
GOOD START NEEDED FOR PSV
PSV Eindhoven will be hoping for a much better start at home against CSKA Moscow than in their match in the Russian capital, when it conceded three goals and a penalty in a disastrous first half before scoring twice after the break and almost snatching a draw.
Maxime Lestienne, the Belgian striker who scored both goals for PSV in Moscow, is back in training after being given compassionate leave following the death of his father, just weeks after his mother also died.
Lestienne is hoping he could get some playing time as PSV attempts to secure a place in the knock-out round of the Champions League.
"It depends on the trainer, of course," he said. "But, who knows, maybe I could play some minutes against CSKA Moscow. I'll have to wait and see."
CSKA READY TO TAKE A BREAK
After Tuesday's game at PSV Eindhoven, CSKA's players will be off on a lengthy mid-season break. They're probably wishing it had come sooner.
CSKA started the season well, even going unbeaten for the first 14 games in the Russian league, but a dramatic downturn has seen CSKA fail to win a game in any competition since Oct. 31.
That run has ended its hopes of qualifying from the Champions League group stage. Any hope of a consolation trip to the Europa League rests on beating PSV.
Much could depend on the form of forward Seydou Doumbia, who is usually CSKA's main threat but has not scored in any of his last seven club games amid fitness concerns and poor form.
There are also fitness concerns around veteran center-back Vasily Berezutsky and full-back Georgy Shchennikov, while midfielder Roman Eremenko is a long-term injury absentee.