Barcelona reaches knockout stage


Without Lionel Messi for almost an hour, Barcelona managed to get the draw it needed to reach the Champions League knockout stages. It was a drab 0-0 draw at Juventus, though, despite Paulo Dybala’s efforts to spark it into life for the home side.

Messi was rested for the first half before coming on for Gerard Deulofeu in the 56th minute. He went close with a couple of free kicks, but Barcelona barely troubled Gianluigi Buffon.

The point was enough for Barcelona to secure top spot in Group D. Juventus remained second in the group, but is only a point above Sporting Lisbon, which beat Olympiakos 3-1.

Juventus, which reached the final in two of the last three seasons, visits Olympiakos in the last round, while Sporting travels to Barcelona.

“Leaving Messi out was difficult, but he has played a lot this season and has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, too,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. “Today we saw a long and tough contest so we thought a rest would do him good.

“We knew the game could open up in the second half, so I wanted to both let him rest and have an option to shake things up.”

Chelsea advanced to the knockout stage with a game to spare after beating 10-man Qarabag 4-0, securing manager Antonio Conte’s 50th victory with the Blues.

Already through, Paris Saint-Germain conceded the first goal of its European campaign in the first minute — before then unleashing its unstoppable firepower to thrash Celtic 7-1 in Paris.

A scoreless draw at Basel would have been enough for Manchester United to top Group A, but the Premier League club slipped to its first group stage loss, going down 1-0 to a goal conceded just a minute from time.

In Turin, Ivan Rakitic went closest for Barcelona, with a first-half free kick that went past a number of players before hitting the right post.

Dybala almost scored in stoppage time for Juventus, but Marc-Andre Ter Stegen palmed his effort around the post.

“We had our chances, what a pity for that ball at the end,” Dybala said. “Now we have to be good and win the match against Olympiakos and not wait to see what Barcelona do,” against Sporting.

In Portugal, Bas Dost scored a goal in each half for Sporting Lisbon, which beat Olympiakos 3-1 in the other Group D match.

In Group A, United was deservedly beaten 1-0 by a spirited Basel, leaving all the qualification places open with one game remaining. Basel defender Michael Lang struck in the 89th minute to earn a win for the Swiss champion.

Still, United leads the standings with 12 points, three clear of both Basel and CSKA Moscow, which earlier won 2-0 at home to last-place Benfica.

Neymar scored twice and set up another goal as Paris Saint-Germain produced its biggest Champions League win to extend its perfect record in Group B.

Willian led Chelsea’s efforts to get back on track after a 3-0 away loss to Roma in Group C, scoring a goal in each half and winning a penalty.

Elsewhere, Antoine Griezmann found the net with a stunning overhead kick as Atletico Madrid defeated Roma 2-0 to keep alive its hopes of advancing.