Barcelona, Bayern advance to Champions League pre-quarters (Roundup)

Barcelona/Munich, Nov 25 (IANS) Barcelona, with a pair of goals from the returning Lionel Messi, trounced AS Roma 6-1 to assure themselves of first place in Champions League Group E, while Bayern Munich rolled over Olympiakos 4-0 to secure the top spot in Group F.

Barcelona, winner of the 2014-2015 edition of Europe’s premier club football competition, welcomed Roma to the Nou Camp stadium having already qualified for the knockout stage after BATE Borisov and Bayer Leverkusen played out a 1-1 draw earlier on Tuesday, reports Efe.

Even so, the home side played with the same intensity they showed in last weekend’s 4-0 rout of Real Madrid. Messi, starting for the first time since going down with a knee injury in late September, contributed two goals, as did Luis Suarez, while Gerard Pique and Adriano added one apiece.

“When you see the players enjoy themselves in every phase of the game you have to be satisfied. They enjoy themselves on the training ground and when they are playing and that is great,” Xinhua quoted Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique as saying.

Messi showed no rust from his time on the sideline recovering from a ligament he tore on September 26. But the Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer said despite his strong return, he has yet to recover his peak form.

“It’s tough to get back up to full speed,” said Messi.” I prepared well and trained but it’s not the same as going out on the pitch and lasting 90 minutes. I will take it with calm and get my pace back.”

Barcelona have 13 points from five matches, followed by Roma and Bayer, both with five points, and BATE, with four.

In Munich, Bayern boosted their point total to 12 as they overran Olympiacos with three goals within 20 minutes as Douglas Costa, Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller were on target at the Allianz Arena.

Bayern lost their defender Holger Badstuber to a red card, which was a minor setback, as the ten-men were able to mark the fourth goal through Kingsley Coman to make the game safe.

Following the loss, Olympiacos sit second in Group F with nine points and can advance with a win or draw against Arsenal in the final group stage match next month in Athens.

Arsenal, meanwhile, beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 with a pair of goals by Alexis Sanchez and one by Mesut Ozil to move up to five points and give themselves a chance of moving on to the Round of 16.

Gary Cahill scored the opener, while Willian added a second from a free-kick, before headers from Oscar and Kurt Zouma wrapped up the win for the English Premier League (EPL) champions at the Sammy Ofer Stadium.

Dinamo, with three points, are already eliminated.

The contest for the two knockout stage berths in Group G grew tighter on Tuesday with FC Porto’s surprising 0-2 home defeat to Dynamo Kiev.

That result, combined with Chelsea’s 4-0 thrashing of Maccabi Tel-Aviv, leaves the Portuguese and English clubs tied at 10 points, only two ahead of Kiev, while the Israeli side is without a single point.

Zenit St. Petersburg stayed perfect in Group H, blanking Valencia 2-0 at home to grab first place with 15 points.

Belgian club Gent edged Olympique Lyon 2-1 at the Ghelamco Arena in the other Group H game.

With the French club eliminated, Gent, at seven points, and six-point Valencia will vie for the second berth.

To advance, the Spanish team needs to beat Lyon and hope that Gent can achieve no better than a draw in its final match against Zenit.

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