Sport | Arsenal and City await draw of death after Champions League slip-ups
Following weekend defeats, Chelsea and Manchester United secured 1-0 victories en route to securing top spot in the group stages, while Arsenal and Manchester City settle for second, quite literally in the case of the latter.
Though certainly a victory they can be proud of, City boss Manuel Pellegrini’s excitement at the prospect of beating the champions of Europe appeared to overcome him when, in what became apparent in post-match interviews, he appeared to forget that top-sport was in reach with just one more goal.
Questioned about his reason for bringing on Rodwell rather than top-scorer Aguero in the closing minutes, Pellegrini made it clear that he had not realised that a 4-2 victory would have been enough to top the group.
The victory should not be underestimated, as their side has struggled away from home domestically this year, and the return to form of James Milner will be a further positive for the Manchester side.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s summer target Gonzalo Higuain punished the Gunners in a 2-0 away defeat to Napoli.
Despite dominating much of the possession, Rafa Benitez’s side forged more chances on the break, and Arsenal were within one goal of continuing their European campaign in the Europa League.
The sending off of Mikel Arteta made this a distinct possibility, but Napoli left it too late as there was not time to grab a third after Callejon’s 90th minute strike.
For United and Chelsea, their narrow victories were enough to see them triumph in comparatively easier groups, beating Shakhtar and Steaua Bucuresti respectively.
Despite lacklustre performances by either sides, they will each hope that the result will provide positive ramifications in the Premier League, having both lost over the weekend.
Elsewhere, the biggest shock was perhaps in the Turk Telecom Arena, where Galatasaray and Juventus were forced to play their match over two days, having being called off due to snow and hail after 30 minutes on Tuesday evening.
Despite an almost unplayable surface destroying the chances of any real football being played, Galatasaray were able to grab a winner late on, when Didier Drogba found Wesley Schneider in the box, knocking out the Italian champions.
This result further exaggerates the importance of finishing top of the group this season.
While Manchester United and Chelsea will fear only AC Milan in their side of the draw, Arsenal and Manchester City will have the two German finalists from last season (Bayern Munich and Dortmund), the Spanish top three (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Athletico Madrid) or Paris Saint Germain to contend with.
The other teams to be placed runner-up in their groups were Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Shalkes and Zenit St Petersburg.
Image courtesy of the Telegraph