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Teams all on knife-edge in Champions League

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 24, 2014 at 6:01 pm •  Published: August 24, 2014
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LONDON (AP) — With at least $12 million guaranteed for Champions League participants, it's little wonder the final playoffs for the group stage are so tight.

Going into the second legs this week, no team leads by more than a goal and half of the 10 games are level.

Arsenal, which drew 0-0 at Besiktas last week, has an enviable record of playing in the group stage every year since the 1998-99 season to protect. Former champions Celtic and Porto at least managed to score potentially valuable away goals.

Here are five things to know about the second legs of the playoff round:

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ARSENAL'S AMMUNITION

The task is clear for Arsenal on Wednesday at the Emirates Stadium. Progress is only possible by winning the match or forcing a non-scoring draw and triumphing on penalty kicks. Arsene Wenger will miss midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who was sent off in Turkey and has scored in both Premier League matches this season. Arsenal's attacking struggles were highlighted at Everton on Saturday when only late goals — from Ramsey and Olivier Giroud — recovered a draw.

"When you don't score people are critical about goals and I agree with them, but we had chances and having watched the game again I believe we had the chances against Besiktas," Wenger said. "Joel Campbell can contribute to that. At the moment he has not got his chance, but he will get it."

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LEVERKUSEN ON A HIGH

Goals weren't a problem for Bayer Leverkusen in its away leg, beating FC Copenhagen 3-2 in the highest-scoring game of the round. Coupled with a winning start in the Bundesliga, it's been the perfect start for new coach Roger Schmidt. The 47-year-old German took charge after a successful spell at Austrian champion Salzburg and has quickly molded Leverkusen into a cohesive unit. Now the side is bidding to reach the Champions League for the second straight season on Wednesday, and then go further than the round of 16 this time.

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AFTER ANDER

Athletic Bilbao showed last season it could cope after the exit of two key players — Fernando Llorente and Javi Martinez — by finishing fourth in the Spanish league. That gave Bilbao this shot at the Champions League group stage, which the team can reach by holding on to the 1-1 draw achieved at Napoli last week.

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