Buoyant City, Arsenal can seal knockout spots

Ivory Coast Manchester City's towering midfielder Yaya Toure Picture: PHIL NOBLE / REUTERS
Ivory Coast Manchester City’s towering midfielder Yaya Toure

Manchester City, buoyed by the return of Yaya Toure, will look to seal a spot in the Champions League knockout stage when they travel to Borussia Moenchengladbach tonight to play a team struggling for form.

Toure, banned by coach Pep Guardiola following comments by his agent about the manager, returned from a three-month exile to score both goals in City’s 2-1 English Premier League win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Guardiola’s decision to restore the Ivorian has further boosted spirits, already high with the team just a point behind leaders Chelsea in the Premier League.

“His personality and his quality are there to see,” Guardiola said.

“He can play many positions. We now have one more man that can help us achieve our targets this season.”

City, who crushed Gladbach 4-0 at home in September, are in second place in the group on seven points, three ahead of the Germans, and can wrap up qualification with victory.

A draw will be enough if Celtic lose at home to Barcelona in the other Group C fixture.

Barcelona are top on nine, with Celtic in last place on two.

The Germans, who also lost at home to City last season, will secure third spot and Europa League action if they draw and Celtic lose.

Gladbach, however, are stuck in a rut, having failed to win any of their last six league matches.

Meanwhile, Arsenal have a giltedged opportunity to kick a self destructive Champions League habit when they host Paris St Germain tonight knowing victory will seal top spot in Group A.

The north Londoners have fallen in the last-16 in each of the past six seasons and during that period only once did they finish first in their initial group.

Their punishment for finishing runners-up on the other five occasions was harsh, twice being drawn against Bayern Munich and twice against Barcelona, losing all four ties, while even when fortune did favour them they succumbed to Monaco. Even if they do beat PSG, who are level on 10 points with the Gunners, the spectre of a horror draw against Bayern or Barcelona would still exist.

Neither of those two clubs are guaranteed top spot in their respective sections and could lurk as runners-up, but unless Arsene Wenger owns a crystal ball he can only assume that finishing top will be rewarded.

Ultimately, luck of the draw will play its part, but an Arsenal victory would maintain the positive vibe of their campaign to date.

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