reds in battle for cup future

PARIS - Compared to the domestic and European woes of five-time European kings Liverpool, life is bliss for Manchester United and Chelsea as Premier League glory and the knockout phase of the Champions League beckon.

PARIS - Compared to the domestic and European woes of five-time European kings Liverpool, life is bliss for Manchester United and Chelsea as Premier League glory and the knockout phase of the Champions League beckon.

Liverpool, with six defeats in seven games, have run into a brick wall in the Premier League where a first title in 20 years already looks beyond them.

Failure to win at Lyon tomorrow could derail their Champions League ambitions after defeats to the French side and Fiorentina.

Meanwhile, it's been plain sailing for United and Chelsea, both at home and abroad.

Sir Alex Ferguson's 2008 European champions are just two points off the Blues in the league, while in Europe both sides have already posted three wins.

Despite veterans Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand both being ruled out of today's game, United will expect to polish off rivals CSKA Moscow at Old Trafford, having already secured full points in Moscow.

Chelsea, having already humiliated Atletico Madrid at Stamford Bridge, will be confident they can get the point they need to advance from Group D, particularly with Didier Drogba having completed the three-match ban imposed for an on-pitch outburst after last season's semifinal loss to Barcelona.

Frank Lampard says the Ivorian is the true ace in the pack.

"Having Didier back in the Champions League this week will be great for us. It's a big boost, he's a top-class player in great form," the England midfielder said, dubbing Drogba the best striker in the world.

Nine-time champions Real Madrid should ultimately emerge from Group C even if AC Milan, with seven titles, complete the double today over the expensively reconstituted "Meringues" at the San Siro.

Both sides have six points from three games but Real will again be without star Cristiano Ronaldo as he has not recovered from a nagging right ankle injury.

Veteran midfielder Guti will also miss the game after falling out with coach Manuel Pellegrini.

Assuming Milan qualify with the Spanish giants, that would mean the end of the road for Marseille, the 1993 champions, who should nonetheless beat Zurich at the Stade Velodrome.

Also teetering on the brink are four-time winners Bayern Munich, who are labouring to make an impression in Group A where Bordeaux are setting the pace after beating the Bavarians in France. With Italian former champions Juventus unbeaten in the same group and a point clear of Bayern, the latter cannot afford to drop points against Bordeaux as Juventus will expect to pinch full points at Israel's Maccabi Haifa.

Bayern team manager Uli Hoeness admits the struggle will be an uphill one if neither of their playmakers, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, can shrug off injuries in time.

Meanwhile, United will make a late decision on whether Wayne Rooney plays today after the England striker became a father for the first time yesterday.

- Sapa-AFP

X