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Norway - 1st Division
Man City, Bayern, Madrid and Barcelona can advance in Champions League by extending perfect starts
Sun, Nov 5, 2023
GENEVA (AP) - The Champions League is a showcase of the world's best club teams and, this week, possible respite for others enduring painful seasons.
Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid all can advance to the Champions League round of 16 with a fourth straight win in their groups. Each is at home against an opponent it beat on the road three weeks ago.
It is a different story for their domestic rivals Manchester United, Union Berlin and Sevilla.
In Manchester, the divide between City and United was clear when the defending European and English champion coasted to a 3-0 win at Old Trafford last weekend. United has stunningly lost five home games already this season, though did scratch out a 1-0 win against Copenhagen, which it plays Wednesday in Denmark.
Bayern has won 16 straight group-stage games in the Champions League and has not lost one since 2017. On Saturday, Bayern humiliated Borussia Dortmund 4-0 in its own stadium, fired by Harry Kane's third hat trick of the season.
Union Berlin is on a 12-match losing streak since Sept. 3, including all three so far in its Champions League debut season. It gets no easier at Napoli on Wednesday.
Madrid began the weekend leading La Liga and is home to the current most thrilling player in world soccer. Jude Bellingham scored twice in a statement 2-1 win at Barcelona last weekend and also in each Champions League game so far.
Sevilla has fired a coach, spent the whole season in the bottom half of the league and is winless in the Champions League. Sevilla now visits Arsenal which is unbeaten at home all season.
Elite supremacy will likely be confirmed when Man City hosts Young Boys on Tuesday, and on Wednesday when Bayern welcomes Galatasaray and Madrid plays Braga.
Barcelona makes it four of the eight group leaders with the maximum nine points. The Spanish champion also will advance with another win Tuesday when it faces Shakhtar Donetsk.
Barcelona will be the latest Champions League club to visit Shakhtar's adopted home city of Hamburg for the competition this season. Royal Antwerp is next on Nov. 28.
Hamburg is a hub for international soccer in the next month, even if the German city's former European champion club is out of that picture.
The port city stages those Champions League games for Shakhtar ahead of the Dec. 2 draw for the men's European Championship finals tournament.
The Volksparkstadion home of second-tier Hamburger SV has a 50,000-plus capacity and is one of 10 venues for Euro 2024, hosting five games including a quarterfinal.
The stadium is being used by Shakhtar because Ukrainian clubs have not hosted international games for security reasons since the Russian military invasion started in February 2022.
There were chants for Hamburger SV from a 46,000 crowd when Shakhtar lost 3-1 to Porto in September, perhaps showing frustration of local fans whose team last played in the Champions League 17 years ago.
HSV won the 1983 European Cup - beating Juventus and its superstar forward line of Michel Platini, Paolo Rossi and Zbigniew Boniek 1-0 in the final - but is now in its sixth straight season in the Bundesliga second division.
It is rare for teams that lose their first three Champions League group games to advance to the next stage.
The currently pointless teams - Benfica, Royal Antwerp, Union Berlin - can take inspiration from the two teams who managed the feat.
Atalanta in 2019-20 had the worst possible start to its debut campaign, and only drew its fourth game. Yet Atalanta ultimately went to the quarterfinals and was minutes away from eliminating Paris Saint-Germain, the eventual beaten finalist.
Newcastle also advanced from the first group stage in 2002-03 after starting with three losses.
All three 0-for-3 clubs have away games this week - Antwerp is at Porto on Tuesday, then on Wednesday Benfica is at Real Sociedad and Union visits Napoli.
MIXED IN MILAN
One Milanese team can qualify for the round of 16 this week and the other can be pushed to the brink of elimination.
Inter Milan, beaten finalist last season and Serie A leader, can book its spot with a win at Salzburg on Wednesday.
The situation is bleaker for seven-time champion AC Milan, which lost to Inter in the semifinals in May.
Milan is last in Group F with no goals and no wins before hosting PSG on Tuesday, three weeks after a 3-0 loss in Paris.
Still, the Rossoneri can take heart that only four points separates first from last in a tough group where Borussia Dortmund hosts Newcastle on Tuesday.
Milan fans likely will give a hostile reception to their once revered goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma on his return to San Siro. He left in 2021 as a free agent with Milan getting no transfer fee.
Donnarumma got a taste in September of what to expect when he was booed by sections of the Milan crowd playing for Italy against Ukraine in a Euro 2024 qualifying game.
AP Sports Writers James Ellingworth in Duesseldorf, Germany and Daniella Matar in Milan contributed to this report
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