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Leading pack make early push for knockouts

FC Internazionale Milano are among six clubs leading the chase for places in the knockout stage but it is neighbours AC Milan's showdown with Real Madrid CF that takes top billing.

Samuel Eto'o and Wesley Sneijder celebrate on Matchday 3
Samuel Eto'o and Wesley Sneijder celebrate on Matchday 3 ©Getty Images

Holders FC Internazionale Milano are among six teams leading the chase for last-16 places on UEFA Champions League Matchday 4. Arsenal FC, FC Barcelona, FC Bayern München, Chelsea FC and Real Madrid CF are in the same position as the Nerazzurri, knowing victory will take them through with two games to spare, regardless of events elsewhere.

Group A leaders Inter are unlikely to have it easy at second-placed Tottenham Hotspur FC on Tuesday if their seven-goal thriller a fortnight ago is any indicator, and the return of Inter coach Rafael Benítez to England, where he managed Liverpool FC, brings added intrigue. The section's winless pair, SV Werder Bremen and FC Twente, will each hope Inter prevail in the knowledge a first win would leapfrog them above Spurs.

In Group B, Olympique Lyonnais will progress with a fourth straight victory at SL Benfica. In the other game, Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC – without a point − must defeat FC Schalke 04 at home to avoid elimination.

Another of the basement dwellers, Bursaspor, welcome Group C pacesetters Manchester United FC for the biggest home match in their brief European history. The Turkish champions have managed neither a point nor a goal, suggesting they will not find it easy against a United defence yet to concede. Valencia CF will scent a chance to claim second spot when they host a Rangers FC team currently occupying that position.

FC København have their big opportunity in Group D where a home success against Barcelona would lift them above the Spanish champions; Barcelona have their own incentive, though, as they can qualify with three points. Elsewhere, FC Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos FC's needs are rather more basic: a first victory.

Wednesday's glamour game is at San Siro where José Mourinho returns to his former stamping ground with Group G frontrunners Real Madrid CF to face AC Milan. Madrid have never won at San Siro but will sew up qualification with a second successive triumph over the Rossoneri. For bottom-placed AJ Auxerre, the visit of AFC Ajax is effectively a last chance to keep their campaign alive.

Last year's runners-up Bayern travel to Group E rivals CFR 1907 Cluj knowing victory will take them through, and even a draw will do if there is a winner between FC Basel 1893 and AS Roma. In Group F Chelsea will advance with a second success against FC Spartak Moskva in London. Should Spartak lose, third-placed Olympique de Marseille will hope to capitalise by prevailing at point-less MŠK Žilina.

In Group H finally, FC Shakhtar Donetsk will look to avenge their 5-1 drubbing at Arsenal when the teams reconvene at the Donbass Arena, though the in-form Londoners will have other ideas. FK Partizan try again for their first points when they entertain third-placed SC Braga.