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5 things to look out for in the penultimate round of Champions League group matches

Memphis Depay gets another chance, Arsenal look to avoid elimination and security warnings for Chelsea in Israel.

Arsenal Training - UEFA Champions League - Group F - Arsenal v Dinamo Zagreb - London Colney The Arsenal players training this week. Source: John Walton

Updated at 17.00

1. Gunners on the brink of early exit

ARSENAL HAVE IT all to do if they are to avoid missing out on the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in 16 years.

After suffering defeat to all three of their Group F opponents already, the Gunners have just three points to show after four matches thanks to the 2-0 victory at home to Bayern Munich last month.

Now they must picked up back-to-back wins in their final two games, starting with Dinamo Zagreb at the Emirates tonight, and hope second-placed Olympiakos are beaten by Bayern.

It was revealed yesterday that Francis Coquelin will be out for two months with a knee injury while Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Danny Welbeck are also sidelined.

2. Security concerns as Chelsea travel to Israel

The reigning Premier League champions are on the road as they face Maccabi Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

With on-going conflict rocking both Tel Aviv and nearby Haifa, where the game will be played, tourists have been warned about the threat of violence.

I think you just have to rely on people who know a lot more than me about the whole situation to make sensible decisions,” said Chelsea defender Gary Cahill when asked about the security concerns.

Second in Group G on seven points, the Blues will have been boosted by a 1-0 win over Norwich City this weekend, which also saw Diego Costa get his name on the scoresheet.

Their opponents have yet to pick up a single point in this year’s competition but they did overcome Hapoel Haifa 3-0 on Saturday.

3. Barca eye top spot

Barcelona only need a draw at home to Roma to seal qualification to the last-16 of the Champions League tonight.

The 2014 winners are sitting pretty at the top of Group E after three wins and a draw with their latest opponents five points adrift in second.

Saturday’s El Clasico saw the Catalan giants run out 4-0 winners against rivals Real Madrid, while Lionel Messi was also welcomed back after his recent injury lay-off. The Argentine superstar was introduced as a second half substitute and could be line to start against manager Luis Enrique’s old club.

When the teams met at the Stadio Olympico back in September, Roma full-back Alessandro Florenzi earned the Giallorossi a point with an outrageous 40-yard strike.

3. Memphis out to prove his worth

Watford v Manchester United - Barclays Premier League - Vicarage Road Memphis Depay marked his return to the Man United team with a goal last weekend.

Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal has bemoaned a “lousy period” for injuries to his players ahead of Wednesday’s visit of PSV Eindhoven to Old Trafford.

Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia are long-term absentees while Phil Jones and Ander Herrera aren’t available and Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial and James Wilson are all doubts.

One player to benefit, however, is out-of-favour forward Memphis Depay, who returned to the starting line-up and scored the opener in last weekend’s 2-1 win over Watford at Vicarage Road.

The Dutchman, who was the Eredivisie’s top scorer with PSV last season, looks set to face his old side after reclaiming his place in the team.

21-year-old Memphis has thanked assistant boss Ryan Giggs for the advice and extra help he has received in recent weeks.

5. City look to bounce back

After an excellent 3-1 win away to Europa League holders Sevilla on Matchday 4, Manchester City hold a slender lead at the top of Group D with two fixtures remaining.

That result guaranteed City a place in the knockout rounds of the competition and they are now vying for top spot along with Wednesday’s opponents Juventus — one point back on eight.

Last year’s beaten finalists Juve were 2-1 winners in the corresponding fixture at the Etihad as Alvaro Morata scored the decisive goal late on.

The Old Lady of Turin come into the game on the back of a 1-0 victory over AC Milan while City will be hoping to bounce back after Liverpool put four past them.

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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