With several of European football's biggest teams nervously teetering on the brink of Champions League elimination, the Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has welcomed his side's' quick progress to the competition's knockout stages. Van der Sar, who may be rested when last season's runners-up host Turkish side Besiktas at Old Trafford tonight, admitted that while clinching top spot in Group B remains his side's primary motivation, he is amazed at the calibre of teams facing premature exits.
"The other groups are crazy," he said. "It used to be the case that you always wanted to be first in your group, but there are a couple this time where you know already that the runners-up would bring a difficult draw in February." Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Juventus and Inter Milan are all possible candidates to finish second in their groups and, while United will avoid another English side in the last 16, van der Sar knows they could face a daunting route to a third successive final.
"The most important thing for us is to get the win and see what happens later on," said the Dutchman. "It is not easy to get to the final, there is a lot of quality around. Just because you have reached two consecutive finals, it doesn't automatically mean you are going to get to a third. It takes a lot of hard work. "You don't win things early in the season. You have a path and we are building to what we hope will be a nice end to the season."
With central defenders Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand out injured, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is expected to partner Wes Brown and Nemanja Vidic at the back, while the striker Dimitar Berbatov is also out. In Group B's other game, German champions Wolfsburg travel to CSKA Moscow knowing an away win will seal their own progress to the next round. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org Manchester United v Besikta, 11.45pm, Aljazeera Sport +3
Chelsea will finish top of Group D if they secure their first victory at Porto tonight. Both clubs have already qualified for the knockout round of the Champions League, with the London club one point ahead of the Portuguese side on 10 points. The visitors lost and drew in their previous two games in the northern Portuguese city. First place in the group grants a favourable seeding in the draw for the next round. Chelsea, five points clear of Manchester United at the top of the Premier League, are in fine form following a 4-0 win over Wolves on Saturday. The Blues have scored at least four goals in five of their last seven matches. Frank Lampard and Jose Bosingwa are unavailable through injury but Gael Kakuta is in the Chelsea squad. Kakuta is eligible to play after the Court of Arbitration for Sport suspended the ban on him playing until they make a final ruling on his transfer from Lens.