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Barca sweat on win in Sofia, help from Chelsea

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) Holders Barcelona would have expected to be safely installed in the last 16 of the Champions League by now instead of facing an anxious night in Bulgaria knowing anything less than victory could knock them out.

Frank Rijkaard's side find themselves in third place in Group A with five points, having won just one of their four matches so far, and even if they do beat hapless Levski Sofia on Wednesday their fate will not be decided until the final group game when they host Werder Bremen.

The German club, who have seven points, host leaders Chelsea (10 points) on Wednesday buoyed by the knowledge that the English champions are far less formidable on the road in Europe where they have won just two of their last 10 away games.

Should Bremen win and Barca drop points it would mean the Catalans having to content themselves with a humbling place in the second-tier UEFA Cup.

Bremen, though, are out of form after needing a late Miroslav Klose goal to salvage a 2-2 draw with lowly Alemannia Aachen at the weekend, and they cannot expect any favours from Chelsea, despite what the conspiracy theorists might say.

Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, public enemy number one at the Nou Camp, said his side will go all out for victory, despite a huge Premier League clash with Manchester United next weekend.

''That's not our war, that's not our problem. We go there to try to get a result.'' Germany playmaker Michael Ballack, rested against West Ham, is likely to return as Mourinho backs up his promise.

ARSENAL JITTERS Barca are not the only big club sweating.

Arsenal, who they beat in the final in Paris this year, have also lost their way although a home match against Hamburg SV on Tuesday should calm their jitters in a tight Group G.

The London club have seven points, level with Porto, and one behind group leaders CSKA Moscow, but visit the Portuguese side in their final match so victory over Hamburg is crucial.

Arsenal are likely to be without Dutchman Robin van Persie who injured his foot in the disappointing 1-1 home draw with Newcastle United on Saturday.

CSKA would reach the last 16 if they beat Porto.

Unlike their arch-rivals Barcelona, Real Madrid are already in the last 16, although they face a formidable task against Group E leaders Olympique Lyon tomorrow.

The French champions have a 100 percent record and a point in the Bernabeu will clinch first place in the group.

Real are third in the Primera Liga after a 3-1 victory over Racing Santander on Saturday.

Lille will hope to become the second French club into the last 16 by beating Anderlecht in Group H tomorrow.

The northern side will achieve that feat if they win and AEK Athens fail to beat group leaders AC Milan.

Like Real Madrid and Lyon, a place in the last 16 is also assured for Bayern Munich, Liverpool, PSV Eindhoven and Valencia while Manchester United need one point at Celtic.

While they jostle for positions, however, others such as Italian champions Inter Milan and Roma still have work to do.

Inter are second in Group B with six points and can join Bayern in the next round if they beat third-placed Sporting Lisbon (five points) in the San Siro on Wednesday.

Likewise, Roma can secure their path out of Group D along with Valencia if they take a point from a tricky trip to Shakhtar Donetsk and will certainly be confident after a 7-0 thrashing of Catania yesterday.

Reuters AY GC0943

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