D-Day in the Champions' League

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The Independent Online
Group A

World and European champions 12 months ago, Ajax may require the assistance of Rangers to scrape through to the quarter-finals. Defeats in the Amsterdam Arena, inflicted by Grasshopper and Auxerre, have left Louis Van Gaal's side level on points with the champions of Switzerland and France. Grasshopper, however, have a superior goal difference and a draw against Ajax in Zurich would be sufficient to take Kubilay Turkyilmaz and company into the last eight. A draw would also be enough for Van Gaal, but only if Rangers managed to win in Auxerre.

P W D L F A Pt

GC Zurich 5 3 0 2 8 4 9

Ajax 5 3 0 2 7 4 9

Auxerre 5 3 0 2 6 6 9

Rangers 5 1 0 4 4 11 3

Group B

The only group with nothing at stake other than the pride of finishing top. That honour is carried into the final round of matches by Atletico Madrid, whose president, Jesus Gil, can feel his particular holy grail almost within his grasp. Spain has won the trophy just once in 30 years: in 1992, when Barcelona beat Sampdoria at Wembley. Atletico are never likely to match Real's record of six successes but their first - and Madrid's first since 1966 - would do much to even up civic football pride in the Spanish capital. The coach Raddy Antic has been Atletico's guiding light.

P W D L F A Pt

At Madrid 5 3 1 1 11 4 10

Bor Dortmund 5 3 1 1 9 5 10

Widzew Lodz 5 1 1 3 6 9 4

St Bucharest 5 1 1 3 2 10 4

Group C

And so it has come to pass. The Old Trafford faithful will be cheering for the black and whites on Wednesday night. However Manchester United fare in Vienna (they need at least a point), Juventus hold the key to their fate. Fenerbahce will qualify with their hosts if they win in the Stadio delle Alpi. A draw would also be good enough for the Turks if United failed to beat Rapid. Given Juve's trip to Tokyo this week for the World Club Cup, United might have reason to fear one final tripwire lurking on what seemed to be - in the good old days of late summer, at least - a clear-cut path to the quarter-finals.

P W D L F A Pt

Juventus 5 4 1 0 9 1 13

Fenerbahce 5 2 1 2 3 4 7

Man United 5 2 0 3 4 3 6

Rapid Vienna 5 0 2 3 2 10 2

Group D

Milan, European invincibles in the not so distant past, still have a hurdle to negotiate. Two defeats have left them short of points, and a third loss, albeit an unlikely one against Rosenborg in the San Siro, would put the Norwegian part-timers into the last eight at the expense of the Italian aristocrats who have laboured this season under the Uruguayan Oscar Tabarez. Porto are the only side other than Juventus yet to lose. No wonder Emerson is unhappy. Even a Coca-Cola Cup final appearance would be small beer compared with what he might have sampled had he stayed in Portugal.

P W D L F A Pt

FC Porto 5 4 1 0 10 4 13

Milan 5 2 1 2 12 9 7

Rosenborg 5 2 0 3 5 10 6

Gothenburg 5 1 0 4 7 11 3

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