Easy day beckons Inter; Real to face mighty Ajax

Easy day beckons Inter; Real to face mighty Ajax

Holders Inter know a home victory over Twente Enschede in Group A on Wednesday will seal progress to the last 16 with a game to spare but their form is so bad that nothing is being taken for granted.

Injury has ravaged Benitez's side but a derby defeat by AC Milan two weekends ago, Sunday's 2-1 reverse at Chievo and the 3-1 loss to Tottenham in the Champions League have led to reports his job could be under threat if Inter lose to Twente.

Jose Mourinho, who inspired Inter's treble triumph last term before leaving for Real Madrid, is under no such pressure at the Bernabeu with his side already through but his conduct in Wednesday's Group G game at Ajax will still be under scrutiny.

The combative Portuguese has just served a two-match domestic touchline ban for arguing with a referee while he faces a separate punishment for a spat with Sporting Gijon coach Manuel Preciado. Mourinho, who suggested Gijon had not made a serious attempt to beat Barcelona earlier this term, must make sure Real are fully motivated in Amsterdam to avoid similar accusations from group rivals AC Milan as they seek qualification at Auxerre.

But with the Clasico against Barcelona the following Monday, Mourinho may be tempted to rest players as Ajax try to take the race for the second qualification spot to the final game.  Barca boss Pep Guardiola is less likely to rotate his squad given the 2009 winners are not yet through to February's first knockout round although a win at Panathinaikos in Group D on Wednesday will secure progression.

After the 2-1 defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk last time out in Group H, Wenger will want no more scares in wrapping up at least a draw at Braga on Tuesday which would seal qualification. Fellow Frenchman Claude Puel clung to his job as Lyon coach in October after a string of poor results while his side missed their first chance at a Champions League last 16 spot with a 4-3 loss at Benfica.  A win at Schalke would complete qualification.  Amid the other main permutations across the groups for progression to the knockout rounds, Tottenham will go through from Group A with a win against Werder Bremen and Manchester United need just a draw in Group C at Rangers.

FC Copenhagen can celebrate with a victory in Group D at Rubin Kazan while AS Roma can join already-qualified Bayern Munich in going through from Group E if they beat the Germans and Basel draw with CFR Cluj. Spartak Moscow can follow Group F leaders Chelsea into the next round with victory at home to Marseille.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)