Borussia Dortmund players celebrate their victory over Marseille, December 11. Reuters
Arsenal face the prospect of being drawn with another big side yet again after scraping through to the last 16 of the Champions League, despite losing to Napoli in Italy, while Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan also sealed their spots in the knockout rounds.
Chelsea ensured top spot in Group E with a 1-0 victory over Steaua Bucharest, with Schalke joining them following their 2-0 triumph over FC Basel.
Borussia Dortmund topped Group F with a late victory over Marseille, who finished the "Group of Death" pointless. Napoli were the unlucky side to not make it to the pre-quarterfinals, with Dortmund, last season's runners-up, topping the group and Arsenal finishing second on a three-way head-to-head as all three sides ended up with 12 points from six matches.
For Arsenal it looks like being yet another nightmare draw in the last 16 as they now stand to face Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Barcelona, with the other options being the not-too-kind Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid.
The reason why Arsenal find themselves in this particular position is because of their 2-0 loss to Napoli away, in a game which also saw Mikel Arteta see red, and was nothing like the out-of-this-world performance seen from the English Premier League side in the reverse fixture.
After a goalless first half, Napoli took the lead in the 73rd minute. Gonzalo Higuain, the Gunners' summer target who missed the reverse tie at the Emirates, executed a perfect low finish from the edge of the area to put Rafa Benitez's side in front.
Arsenal's chances of finding their way back and coming away with at least a point, which would have seen them qualify as group winners, ended when Arteta received a second yellow card for a challenge on Jose Callejon, who then went on to add to Napoli's tally in stoppage time to make it 2-0.
That win would have put Napoli through to the knockout stages, but for Dortmund, who found a late goal courtesy Kevin Grosskreutz to sneak past Marseille. Dortmund had taken the lead via Robert Lewandowski in just the fourth minute only for Souleymane Diawara to equalise ten minutes later, with the French side then having to play the entire second half with ten men following Dimitri Payet's dismissal.
The German side pressed and probed and would have the last laugh as the Grosskreutz goal put them through.
In Group H, the crunch game between AC Milan and Ajax ended goalless, with it giving the Italian giants a place in the knockout stages. Ajax, buoyed by their impressive victory over Barcelona in the last matchday, needed to pick up all three points at the San Siro to advance, but just could not find the goal required to knock Milan out, despite having a man advantage after Riccardo Montolivo was sent off on just 22 minutes.
Barcelona, who had already qualified before the start of the final round of fixtures in the group stage, ensured top spot with a 6-1 thumping of Celtic - Neymar filling in admirably for the injured Lionel Messi by scoring a hat-trick, with Gerard Pique, Pedro Rodriguez and Cristian Tello scoring the other goals.
Group E saw Chelsea go through as winners, following their win over bottom side Steaua Bucharest, with Demba Ba netting the only goal of the game in the tenth minute at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are joined by Schalke, who beat Basel in a winner-take-all tie courtesy second half goals from Julian Draxler and Joel Matip.
Group G saw Zenit St. Petersburg join Atletico Madrid in the next stage, after the Spanish side eased past FC Porto 2-0 to consign the Portuguese side to the Europa League. Zenit were thumped 4-1 by Austria Wien, but still found their way through thanks to a one-point lead over Porto.
Earlier, Galatasaray stunned Juventus 1-0 to pip the Italians to second place in Group B. Wesley Sneijder was the hero, scoring the winner in the 85th minute after the match was postponed to Wednesday due to heavy snowfall.
Results: Group E: Chelsea 1-0 Steaua Bucharest; Schalke 2-0 Basel. Group F: Napoli 2-0 Arsenal; Marseille 1-2 Borussia Dortmund. Group G: Atletico Madrid 2-0 Porto; Austria Wien 4-1 Zenit St. Petersburg. Group H: AC Milan 0-0 Ajax; Barcelona 6-1 Celtic.
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