Berbatov rediscovers form as Monaco chases Champions League knockout phase berth against Zenit

bug


We also have more stories about:
(click the phrases to see a list)

People:

Organizations:

Subjects:

Places:

 


MONACO — For Monaco, life without Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez has proved less difficult than expected. At least in the Champions League.

Leonardo Jardim's team has been struggling with consistency in the French league but lost only once on Europe's biggest stage so far this season. Despite a poor offensive record, it only needs a draw at home against Zenit on Tuesday to qualify for the knockout phase.

Monaco can even top Group C depending on Bayer Leverkusen's result at last-placed Benfica.

Here are some things to know ahead of Tuesday's matches:


BERBATOV HITTING FORM

Monaco could qualify with a goalless draw and by doing so become the first team to have ever progressed from the group stage with only two goals scored — the side current tally.

Monaco has been struggling for goals since the departures of Falcao and Rodriguez, but the good news for Jardim is that Dimitar Berbatov has finally returned to form.

The former Manchester United striker has looked rejuvenated over the past week, finding the net three times, including a brace in a 2-0 win over Toulouse on Friday as Monaco posted consecutive wins only for the second time this season.


RACISM ALLEGATIONS

Zenit's 4-0 thrashing of FC Krasnodar on Saturday sent the St. Petersburg side into the Russian league's three-month winter break with a seven-point lead. It also restored confidence after some mixed recent form at home and in Europe, including three defeats in the preceding five games in all competitions. But there's a racism row brewing after striker Hulk accused Russian referee Alexei Matyunin of telling him that he did not like black people.

That referee was previously found to have racially abused a player from Russia's North Caucasus in 2011, but cleared on appeal. Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas has said he believes Hulk and the Russian Football Union has yet to decide whether it will investigate.

Zenit's Alexander Kerzhakov and Javi Garcia are injured and have not flown out with the team to Monaco.


LEVERKUSEN'S POOR EFFICIENCY

Bayer Leverkusen is through but still hoping for first place in the group, although captain and midfielder Lars Bender is not traveling to Lisbon because of an abdominal muscle injury. Bender aggravated the injury in the 1-0 loss on Saturday at Bayern Munich.

Director Rudi Voeller said Leverkusen's goal in Lisbon is clear: "We want to win the group."

Leverkusen looked good against Bayern in the first half, but was outplayed in the second and was lucky to escape having conceded a solitary goal. Still, it is one of the few teams in the Bundesliga that has troubled Bayern. Had Karim Bellarabi converted his chance early in the match, the outcome might have been different.


BENFICA'S WOE

Already out of the tournament, Benfica is trying to avoid another unhappy milestone. If the Lisbon club doesn't beat Bayer, it will have recorded its worst-ever group campaign.

Benfica also went out at the group stage in the past two seasons, when it dropped into the Europa League.

The second-tier competition also brought disappointment, though: Benfica reached the final in the last two seasons, but lost both times.


HOW THEY ADVANCE

Leverkusen will be guaranteed first place with a win at Benfica, or if it draws and Monaco fails to win.

Monaco will progress with a draw, which will be enough to top the group if Bayer loses. Monaco will also finish first if it wins and Leverkusen fails to grab three points in Portugal.

Zenit will qualify with a win and can seal the group's first place if Leverkusen loses. Benfica is condemned to fourth place whatever its result.


Nesha Stracevic in Frankfurt, Barry Hatton in Lisbon and James Ellingworth in Moscow contributed to this report.

All content copyright ©2014 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Click here to read our privacy policy.