Liverpool and Chelsea completed a sweep of Premier League clubs advancing into the knockout stage of the Champions League on Tuesday, a season after England had two of its representatives square off in the final.
Liverpool toughed out a 2-0 victory at Salzburg to advance as the winner of Group E and stay on course to defend its title in the competition, the biggest prize in European soccer. Liverpool also is eight points clear in the Premier League race as it pursue its first English championship in 30 years.
Chelsea secured qualification from Group H on the strength of a 2-1 home victory over Lille.
Manchester City and Tottenham, the other English clubs competing in the Champions League, advanced to the knockout stages last month with a game to spare.
Napoli joined Liverpool in advancing from Group E with a 4-0 win over Genk but fired its manager, Carlo Ancelotti, after the match. Ancelotti’s job had been in jeopardy for weeks; Tuesday’s result ended a winless run of nine matches over all for Napoli, but Italian news media reports suggested the former A.C. Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso would replace Ancelotti.
“I have never resigned and I will never do it,” Ancelotti said after the game, before the club announced he was out. “I don’t know if I will still be Napoli coach at the weekend, I’ll talk with the president tomorrow. It’s a mutually agreed meeting to evaluate the current situation.
“I hope that qualifying for the next round removes a bit of pressure from us and gives us energy.”
For the second straight season, Inter Milan was eliminated after failing to pick up a home win in the final round of the group stage. Inter lost, 2-1, to Barcelona, which rested Lionel Messi and a number of other players because it had already qualified, and dropped into third place in Group F behind Borussia Dortmund on goal difference. Inter’s European campaign will continue in the second-tier Europa League.
Dortmund eked out a 2-1 win against Slavia Prague to squeeze past Inter for the second spot in Barcelona’s group.
Also qualifying Tuesday was Valencia, which won by 1-0 at Ajax in the group containing Chelsea to plunge the Dutch hosts — who reached the semifinals last season — into the Europa League as one of the third-place finishers in the group stage.
Lyon won the three-way fight with Zenit St. Petersburg and Benfica to secure qualification with Leipzig in Group G. A 2-2 tie at home against Leipzig proved enough for Lyon to finish a point ahead of its Russian and Portuguese rivals.