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Barca, Inter on brink of last 16

PARIS, Dec 8 – Holders Barcelona can secure a place in the Champions League knockout stage even if they lose at Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday, but Inter Milan face a winner-takes-all home encounter with Rubin Kazan.MESSIAll four teams in Group F will go into their final group games with hopes of going through, but it is pool leaders Barcelona who hold the strongest hand.

Pep Guardiola’s side have slipped into top gear in recent weeks, defeating Inter 2-0 in their last Champions League assignment and edging domestic rivals Real in the first ‘Clasico’ of the season.

"This is the biggest game of our season so far and it will define the rest of our season," said Guardiola after his side’s 3-1 win at Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday evening.

"I’m confident that we will preform well. We cannot go out of Europe and we have to finish top of our group."

Barca can afford to lose by any two-goal scoreline other than 2-0 in Kiev, due to their 2-0 victory over the Ukrainians in the reverse fixture, while a 0-0 or 1-1 draw will be enough for Inter at home to freshly crowned Russian champions Kazan as long as Dynamo do not win.

Inter’s lead at the top of Serie A was cut to four points when they lost 2-1 at Juventus on Saturday but they will be bolstered by the return to fitness of Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder.

"We are disappointed because we wanted to win the big game against Juventus," said Inter’s Brazilian international goalkeeper Julio Cesar.

"However, we still have a four-point advantage in the league and now we have to think about the UEFA Champions League game on Wednesday. It’s like a final for us and we are ready for it."

Liverpool’s catastrophic exit from the competition made the headlines in Group E, with Fiorentina travelling to Anfield on Wednesday knowing that victory will secure top spot in the group ahead of Lyon.

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With Liverpool already assured of a place in the Europa League, coach Rafael Benitez is likely to use the visit of the Viola to test the fitness of Fernando Torres and hand a first start to Italian summer signing Alberto Aquilani.

TORRES_AIRBORNE"Hopefully Torres will be ready this week – I don’t know if he will play or be on the bench," said Benitez.

"Aquilani will maybe start the game, we are considering this."

Should Fiorentina fail to beat Liverpool, Lyon must win by two goals at home to the group’s bottom side Debrecen to snatch top spot and secure a potentially favourable draw in the last 16.

Romanians Unirea Urziceni will qualify for the knockout phase in their first ever Champions League season if they draw at Stuttgart in Group G.

The German side sacked coach Markus Babbel over the weekend after a 1-1 draw at home to fellow strugglers Bochum left them third from bottom in the Bundesliga.

Babbel was swiftly replaced by Swiss coach Christian Gross, who must inspire his charges to victory over Dan Petrescu’s side if they are to reach the next stage.

"I am here to save what is left to save," Gross said at his introductory press conference. "I want to take the team back onto the path of success."

Group leaders Sevilla will seal top spot with a point at home to Rangers, who were knocked out of European competition altogether when they lost 2-0 at home to Stuttgart in their last game.

Arsenal sewed up Group H with a 2-0 win at home to Standard Liege last time out and Arsene Wenger’s men travel to an Olympiakos side that needs a point to progress.

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Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar, who sacked coach Ronald Koeman at the weekend, cannot make the next round but will take the Europa League qualifying spot with victory at Standard Liege.

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