Top spot still target for defiant Wenger
03 December 2012, 13:31
England - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger insisted he still harbours aspirations of knocking rivals Schalke off their perch atop Group B as the final round of Champions League group stage fixtures takes place this week.
The Premier League side ensured their progression to the knockout phase for a 13th straight year with a 2-0 victory over Montpellier a fortnight ago, but the Gunners must beat Europa-League destined Olympiakos on Tuesday if they hope to avoid a seeded team, such as Barcelona, in the next round.
Schalke top the group on 11 points after five matches with Arsenal one behind, but the German side's superior head-to-head record means Wenger's charges would qualify as runners-up should the two teams finish level on points.
Despite conceding he may rest some of his fatigued players, Wenger was adamant the north Londoners would be fully focused on trying to wrest control of the group away from Schalke.
"There is something at stake and I'll have to give a breather to some players who are on the edge, as well as go over there and win our game to make sure that we do the job until the end," the Frenchman told Arsenal.com.
"That's what I will try to achieve. I'm confident that (already eliminated) Montpellier will want to finish the Champions League well. There's a chance that Montpellier can beat Schalke," he added, referring to Tuesday's other Group B fixture.
Arsenal have endured a difficult past week with successive draws against Aston Villa and Everton capped off by Saturday's dismal 2-0 defeat at home to Swansea, a result that saw them drop to 10th in the table.
Wenger believes the trip to Greece could provide the perfect antidote.
"We hope that we get a good performance at Olympiakos. It's important for us. Away from home, I'm not too concerned. We look like we play a little bit with the handbrake at home," he said.
Manchester City's Champions League dreams were prematurely extinguished for a second year running following a 1-1 draw at home to Real Madrid last time out.
With just three points, City can finish no higher than third and must win at Group D winners Borussia Dortmund to even stand a chance of extending their European adventure.
"We will try but we need to win in Dortmund and it will not be easy because Dortmund are in a good condition," said City boss Roberto Mancini.
However if Ajax, who travel to Spain to face Madrid, match City's result, the defending Premier League champions will be left with just domestic honours to play for.
Madrid are guaranteed second place, leaving them exposed to Manchester United and potentially Bayern Munich in the round of 16 draw.
Top spot is still a possbility for both Porto and Paris Saint-Germain in Group A, with the pair set to meet at Parc des Princes in the French capital.
Porto, on 13 points, are one ahead of a faltering PSG outfit that lost for the third time in five Ligue 1 matches on Saturday, with the Parisians' 2-1 reverse at Nice prompting an angry outburst from coach Carlo Ancelotti.
"I have the impression that the players aren't focused on the club's project. We lack solidarity on the field. Right now, it's the whole team that annoys me," snarled the Italian after the defeat on the Cote d'Azur.
Meanwhile Dinamo Zagreb, still without a goal or a point in the competition, are in danger of equalling Anderlecht's record run of 12 consecutive defeats in the competition.
They host Dynamo Kiev, who are assured of third place.
Competition debutants Malaga, who host Anderlecht, are already through as winners of Group C, while second-placed AC Milan, in action at home to Zenit Saint Petersburg, have also booked their spot in the next round.
Both Zenit and Anderlecht have four points, but the Belgians must pick up more points than Zenit, or overturn a goal difference deficit, to claim third ahead of their Russian counterparts.