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Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012

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Lean on me: Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli (right) challenges Chelsea striker Fernando Torres during their Champions League match in Turin on Tuesday. AFP-JIJI

Chelsea on brink of Champions League exit after Juve defeat

AP

PARIS — Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Shakhtar Donetsk and Valencia reached the knockout stage of the Champions League on Tuesday, while Chelsea is on the verge of becoming the first titleholder to fail to make it out of the group stage.

Already under pressure in the Premier League after a four-game winless run, Chelsea lost 3-0 at Juventus to drop to third in Group E behind Shakhtar and Juve and place manager Roberto di Matteo under increasing pressure.

"At the moment I'm still here and I think I will be in the future. We'll have to see what happens," said Di Matteo, who spent more than an hour with his players in the dressing room. "I'm responsible for the result, I'm responsible for the performance and tonight was negative. If anyone has to take the blame it's me. I select the team."

Fabio Quagliarella and Arturo Vidal — both on target for Juventus in the 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge — again scored against a Chelsea team without the injured John Terry. Substitute Sebastian Giovinco capped the victory with a goal in the final minute.

"It's a big disappointment," Di Matteo said. "It's been a difficult evening for us, for the team, for the club. So there was a lot of reflection."

Shakhtar showed it is a force to be reckoned with after a crushing 5-2 win over FC Nordsjaelland, with Luiz Adriano scoring a hat trick and Willian grabbing two goals.

Chelsea has to beat Nordsjaelland and hope for Shakhtar to defeat Juventus to go through at Juve's expense.

"It's mathematically still possible. And you always try while there's still hope," Di Matteo said. "Who says Juve are not going to lose against Shakhtar?"

Juventus assistant coach Angelo Alessio insists the players will not settle for a draw in Ukraine because "we're not used to playing for a point, we want to win."

In Copenhagen, Nordsjaelland took the lead but Shakhtar equalized two minutes later in a contentious moment that enraged the crowd.

Willian kicked downfield after an uncontested drop ball toward the opposing box because of an injury to a Nordsjaelland player. The hosts' defenders walked slowly to the ball, only to watch in amazement as Adriano raced through to score.

Barcelona advanced for the ninth straight season after defeating Spartak Moscow 3-0 in Group G with Lionel Messi scoring another two goals to close to within five of Gerd Muller's single-year record of 85.

"Messi is a perfect player, maybe the best player in the world right now," Spartak coach Unai Emery said.

Daniel Alves put Barca ahead and Messi pounced twice before halftime to continue a remarkable season that includes 17 league goals and another five in the Champions League. He has 56 Champions League goals in his career, tying Ruud Van Nisterooy for second place and trailing only Raul Gonzalez's tally of 71.

Two weeks after beating Barcelona at home in one of its best ever European performances, Celtic lost 2-1 at Benfica to remain level on seven points with its Portuguese opponent.

At first glance, Celtic would seem to have the odds slightly in its favor when it hosts Spartak and Benfica travels to Barcelona on Dec. 5. But if both matches end in a draw then the Portuguese club will advance.

Already-qualified Manchester United lacked firepower in losing 1-0 at Galatasaray after fielding an under-strength team.



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