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Gunners hope to seal last-16 berth

London, Nov 20, 2012, Reuters:

Man City face Real in a must-win tie

Arsenal are buzzing after their resounding victory over north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur but they go into Wednesday's Champions League home clash with Montpellier aware that any slip could be costly to their last 16 hopes.

Before the 5-2 rout of Tottenham on Saturday the Gunners were coming under fire after some patchy form including a 2-1 away defeat at Manchester United, a 3-3 home draw with Fulham and a 2-0 home reverse against Schalke in the Champions League.

The defeat by Schalke was Arsenal’s first at home to foreign opponents since 2003 but they drew 2-2 with the Germans the following week, having led 2-0, to stay well-placed to progress as one of the top two sides in Group B ahead of Olympiakos.

Having conceded 14 goals in their last five games in all competitions, however, there remains an air of vulnerability about Arsenal which French champions Montpellier, despite being unable to progress, will be keen to exploit.

Victory for Arsenal, their first at home against French opposition in the Champions League, combined with a Schalke defeat of Olympiakos will see Arsene Wenger’s side through to the knockout rounds for the 13th season in succession.

Any other combination of results will mean Arsenal, a point behind Schalke and a point ahead of Olympiakos, could still face a nervy deciding night in Athens on December 4.

Striker Olivier Giroud will also be relishing a meeting with his old club after four goals in his last three games have helped the Frenchman settle following a tricky start in London.

Montpellier’s first outing in the Champions League has gone downhill ever since Younes Belhanda’s early penalty put them ahead against Arsenal on matchday one before the visitors hit back to seal a slightly fortunate 2-1 victory.

They have managed just one point in the group and bottom place looks almost certain.

Aguero pumped up

Meanwhile, Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has an added incentive to keep his side’s slim hopes alive when they welcome Real Madrid to the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.

Having yet to win a match in Group D, City are rock bottom with two points, yet victories over Real and in their final match away to group leaders Borussia Dortmund could see them squeeze into the last 16, depending on results elsewhere.

“It’s always special to play against a club like Real Madrid. Personally, my connection with Atletico Madrid gives it an additional kick,” Aguero told City's website www.mcfc.co.uk
“Never defeating Real when I was with Atletico was a real regret for me but I did get to score against them even if we never managed a win. Wednesday night will hopefully break that run for me.”

Jose Mourinho’s Real could go through if they better Ajax's result against Dortmund. Mourinho will become the youngest coach to take charge of 100 Champions League matches on Wednesday and only the fifth manager to reach the milestone after Carlo Ancelotti, Arsene Wenger, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Alex Ferguson.


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