Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ferguson: We're almost there


Sir Alex Ferguson believes Man United are now well on course for the Champions League knock-out stages after edging past CSKA Moscow.

United maintained their 100% record in Group B after Antonio Valencia struck a late goal to secure a 1-0 win in the Russian capital on Wednesday evening.

With three games still remaining, Ferguson hopes his side can now secure their passage with something to spare.

Ferguson said: "We are very pleased with our performance.

"The situation in the group is now nine points. I have always maintained that you need 10 to qualify.

"We now have a home game against CSKA in two or three weeks' time which we hope can take us to the next stage."

Ferguson felt his team had produced a professional performance on the Luzhniki Stadium's artificial pitch.

He added: "In the first half I think we played with a lot patience, which is necessary when you are playing away from home.

"Experience in these sort of situations is always vital.

"In the second half I think we increased the tempo of the game and got more penetration.

"We created some good goal opportunities and if we have to wait to the 86th minute, so be it.

"We had to have the patience to win, and we did that."

He added: "The issues of the surface were not a problem. As I said before the game, good footballers can play on that quite easily."

Ferguson expressed his satisfaction with the performance of former Wigan star Valencia, who moments before his goal had rattled the crossbar.

It was Valencia's second goal for the club, following on quickly from his first in last weekend's win over Bolton.

Ferguson said of the Ecuador international: "He has been the plus point for the last two weeks.

"He is settling into the club, his confidence is stronger and he has tremendous assets for a wee player - strength, balance, feet and a good crosser of the ball.

"The area he hadn't shown was goalscoring ability.

"We said when we signed him this was his challenge to progress as a footballer.

"Now he has scored two in two games and that will help him."

Ferguson confirmed his decision to substitute Rio Ferdinand just before the hour was merely precautionary ahead of Sunday's Premier League trip to rivals Liverpool.

United had already travelled to Russia without the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher and Park Ji-Sung.

Defender Fabio, who impressed on the left, was carried off late on but Ferguson said his problem was only cramp.

Defeat left CSKA Moscow with three points from their opening three games in the competition but new manager Juande Ramos remains hopeful of progress.

Ramos, the former Tottenam manager who took charge last month, said: "We had our chances but we didn't take them.

"I think we had a very good first half and in the second half we had chances in the first 10 minutes.

"We made it very hard for them for an hour.

"We have lost but we still have three games and we are going to fight for our chances."

Pellegrini worried by big-match failures


Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini
Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini admits he is concerned that his team have failed in the big matches so far this season.

This follows losses to both AC Milan and Sevilla - in the Champions League and Primera Liga respectively.

Madrid have won eight of their 10 competitive games this season, but in arguably their toughest challenges they have come unstuck, going down 2-1 to Sevilla in La Liga earlier this month and then losing 3-2 at home to Milan in the Champions League last night.

When asked about this following the Milan loss, Pellegrini said: "Every defeat is worrying. Both teams (Sevilla and Milan) are more settled than we are and they've played together for a lot longer. I don't consider it something normal, it's worrying and we have to continue improving."

The loss to Milan came after Madrid had beaten FC Zurich 5-2 and Marseille 3-0 in their opening two games, but they surrendered top spot in Group C to the Italians following last night's result, with the other two sides now three points behind at the midway point of the group stages.

Pellegrini said: "We have two objectives: To qualify for the next round of the Champions League, and we will try to recover the points in the return game against Milan; and in the league, where we are on the right path but know that we have to work harder."

Madrid had looked on course for their third successive win in Europe when Raul took advantage of a bad mistake from visiting goalkeeper Dida to give the home side a half-time lead, but Milan turned the game on its head after the break when, against the run of play, they scored twice in a four-minute spell through Andrea Pirlo and Alexandre Pato to go 2-1 ahead.

Royston Drenthe brought Madrid back on level terms with 14 minutes to go when he drove home a low shot from the edge of the box, but it would be Pato who had the final say as he volleyed home at the far post to earn Milan an 88th-minute winner.

Madrid have now lost two of their past three games including the Sevilla match, but Dutchman Drenthe insists there is no reason to press the panic button.

"It's not a crisis, we can also lose games. We will play in Gijon and then against Milan over there. Why talk of crisis? We are fine in the league and the Champions League," he said in AS.

"The people don't understand that the Madrid players are people and that we can also lose.

"This is football, anything can happen."

A delighted Leonardo, the Milan coach, said of his side's victory: "I`m very happy and I have a very positive feeling. The second half was much better than the first.

"After Raul`s goal it was difficult to reorganise the team and the second half was incredible. We created chances, we went 2-1 ahead, they drew level but we never thought about losing and that was key. The result was fair."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pato blow decides heavyweight contest


Real Madrid CF and AC Milan played out a UEFA Champions League classic as the Serie A side recovered from Dida's early error to breathe life into their Group C campaign with a 3-2 win.

European heavyweights
With 16 European Champion Clubs' Cups between them and a plethora of stars on display, fans flocked to the Santiago Bernabéu expecting something special – they were not disappointed. Raúl González opened the scoring midway through the opening period but two second-half goals in four minutes from Andrea Pirlo and Pato turned the game on its head. Royston Drenthe's low drive restored parity before Pato decided the contest with a dramatic volley two minutes from time.

Last-minute change
So Madrid's night ended as it had begun – on a sour note. Gonzalo Higuaín picked up an injury during the warm-up to join a daunting list of absentees. Yet Manuel Pellegrini is hardly short on talent and, with Esteban Granero handed his UEFA Champions League debut, the hosts set the early pace. Granero and Karim Benzema bristled with intent and the pair were in the thick of things as Madrid broke the deadlock on 19 minutes. Benzema drew defenders on the edge of the Milan area before teeing up Granero for a speculative effort. It was straight at Dida yet the Brazilian, playing in place of the injured Christian Abbiati, let the ball slip on to his knee and into the path of the prowling Raúl who clipped in his 66th UEFA Champions League goal.

Madrid pressure
The Rossoneri were stunned, and as they allowed their opponents more possession they might have been punished further had Lassana Diarra applied more finesse to his chip. The French international sent another attempt just wide from distance and Marcelo also warmed Dida's hands. Milan threatened only once in the first half, Clarence Seedorf's cross needing a timely Raúl Albiol interception to deny the lurking Filippo Inzaghi with the scores at 0-0, and the second period started in a similar fashion. Raúl flashed a left-footed drive wide before Kaká measured a teasing pass across goal to no avail.

Casillas culpable
Dida was getting plenty of opportunity to atone for his error, denying Benzema and then, following a defensive lapse, Raúl. It all looked so comfortable for Madrid but, in the space of four minutes, they were behind. Receiving possession 30 metres from goal, Pirlo unleashed a blistering strike that crept inside Iker Casillas's near post. The goalkeeper could do nothing about that, yet was culpable when he opted to come out to meet Massimo Ambrosini's lofted pass soon after but misjudged the bounce, leaving Pato to slide the ball into an unguarded net and give Leonardo's side the lead.

It was merely the beginning of the drama. With 14 minutes left, Drenthe met Raúl's corner with a crisp low shot that levelled matters, yet these sides had played enough European Cup football – 526 matches between them – to suspect another sting in the tail. It duly came: Pato latching on to Seedorf's flighted pass with an emphatic volley to finally settle a thrilling contest.

Champions League Wed Review


AC Milan edged a thrilling contest with Real Madrid 3-2 at the Bernabeu in the pick of Wednesday's Champions League games.

Raul put the home side ahead after pouncing on a dreadful blunder by Milan goalkeeper Dida, but Andrea Pirlo (62) and Alexandre Pato (66) turned the match around.

Substitute Royston Drenthe made it 2-2 after 76 minutes but Pato's second two minutes from time sealed a memorable win.

Also in Group C, a moment of quality from Gabriel Heinze settled a poor contest between FC Zurich and Marseille, Heinze volleying home after 69 minutes to give the visitors a 1-0 win.

Marseille had Laurent Bonnart sent off for a second yellow in stoppage time.

Michael Ciani scored at both ends and Bordeaux missed two penalties as the French champions leapfrogged Bayern Munich to move to the top of Group A with a 2-1 win.

Ciani put Bayern ahead with an own goal in the sixth minute before making amends with a fine equaliser in the 29th minute.

Bayern were reduced to 10 men when they lost Thomas Muller and Marc Planus then scored the winner in the 41st minute.

Bordeaux could even afford to miss two penalties with Hans-Jorg Butt saving from both Yoann Gourcuff and Jussie, while the visitors ended the game with only nine men as Daniel van Buyten was sent off for the foul which led to the second penalty in the 88th minute.

Elsewhere in the group, Juventus made life hard for themselves but held on to defeat 10-man Maccabi Haifa 1-0.

Giorgio Chiellini's header early in the second half was enough to hand the Bianconeri all three points in Turin.

Chelsea put themselves on the brink of qualification from Group D with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Atletico Madrid.

A goal in each half from Ivory Coast international Salomon Kalou, a fine drive from Frank Lampard and an own goal from Luis Perea maintained Chelsea's 100% record.

Porto are three points behind Chelsea after coming from behind to beat Apoel Nicosia 2-1, Hulk scoring twice - one a penalty - after an own goal from Alvaro Perreira gifted the visitors the lead.

In the early evening kick-off, Antonio Valencia struck a late winner as Manchester United maintained their 100% record in Group B at the expense of CSKA Moscow.

The other Group B game between Wolfsburg and Besiktas finished in a goalless, yet entertaining, draw.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rubin Kazan silenced the Nou Camp


Gokdeniz Karadeniz stuck a second-half winner as Rubin Kazan claimed a shock Champions League victory over Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

Karadeniz netted with 17 minutes to go to earn the Russian champions their first win in Group F and inflict a first competitive defeat over Barcelona since May.

It was also the first European defeat Pep Guardiola's men had suffered since losing at home to Shakhtar Donetsk last December having already qualified for the last 16.

An upset had been on the cards from the opening two minutes when Rubin took the lead through Alexander Ryazantsev's long-range piledriver out of the blue, and although Barca levelled up through a fine Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal just after half-time, it was the visitors who went on to claim a memorable victory thanks to Karadeniz.

The result meant Rubin joined Barca on four points in Group F, with Dynamo Kiev on the same number following their 2-2 draw with Inter Milan, who have three points.

Some of the fans at the Nou Camp probably had not even taken their seats when Rubin claimed a shock lead through Ryazantsev with just over a minute on the clock.

There appeared little danger when the ball ran loose 35 yards from goal but Ryazantsev had other ideas and his first-time strike fizzed past Victor Valdes into the near top corner of the net.

That was the first time Barca had fallen behind in either Europe or the Primera Division this season, and whether it was a mixture of surprise or Rubin getting plenty of men behind the ball, the home side found it hard to get going in the remainder of the first half.

Ibrahimovic had two efforts that were saved by Sergei Ryzhikov but the Rubin keeper would have been disappointed if he had let either in, while Dani Alves' 25-yard effort hit the side-netting when a foot to the left would have brought a certain goal.

Ryzhikov had to work harder to save further efforts from Pedro Rodriguez and Lionel Messi but otherwise the visitors successfully kept their hosts at bay before the break, whilst they might even have netted a second goal themselves after winning a dangerous free-kick 20 yards out but Valdes was equal to Karadeniz's curling shot.

It was a frustrating period for Barca, but they needed just three minutes of the second half to get that out of their system as Ibrahimovic scored a fine equaliser.

Xavi's chip over the Rubin defence was chested down by the giant Swede on the edge of the area and with his next touch he drilled an unstoppable shot in off the far post.

The home supporters must have felt that would be the catalyst for a much improved performance by their side, but hard-working Rubin refused to capitulate and they made it just as difficult for Barca as they did before the break.

Pedro went close for the Spanish champions while Ibrahimovic saw a free-kick whistle just past the post.

Barca continued to push for an opening, but they were left shellshocked for the second time in the match when Rubin retook the lead through Karadeniz - and this time there was no way back for the Catalan giants.

A quick break by the Russian side resulted in Alejandro Dominguez putting Karadeniz through on the right of the area and the Rubin forward left Valdes with no chance with a well-struck effort into the far corner of the net.

That proved to be the winning goal, although Barca twice came agonisingly close to equalising in the closing stages as they hit the woodwork through Ibrahimovic and Yaya Toure.

Alves and Messi combined to give Ibrahimovic his chance but his volley from near the penalty spot crashed against the crossbar, and then in the final minute of injury time Toure headed Xavi's corner against the post as Barca slumped to a rare defeat.

Liverpool sunk by Lyon


Lyon deepened the sense of crisis surrounding Liverpool and manager Rafael Benitez as Cesar Delgado's injury-time winner left their Champions League ambitions hanging in the balance.Liverpool conceded an injury-time goal which puts their Champions League future in grave doubt.

An injury-ravaged home side had produced a display of spirit and effort which did not deserve to see them finish as losers.

But they have now lost four games in succession for the first time since 1987 as their season plunges into despair.

Captain Steven Gerrard's groin problem forced him off in the first half, as Liverpool lost this Group E match to a side who now top the group with nine points.

Liverpool led at the break through Yossi Benayoun, but Lyon slowly edged their way towards victory with goals from substitutes Maxime Gonalons and Cesar Delgado.

An air of nervous tension hung over Anfield, such were the levels of distress from fans unused to their side losing with such regularity.

The beach-ball embarrassment of the defeat at Sunderland just about summed up Liverpool's indifferent season.

Their form has been poor, a situation made worse by having their squad systematically deprived of its best players.

Fernando Torres was again out, while Glen Johnson was missing with a groin injury. At least Gerrard was back - but that lasted only 25 minutes.

Teenager Martin Kelly, Whiston-born and academy produced, made his full debut at right-back, having had just a handful of minutes prior to this as a late substitute against PSV Eindhoven in Holland last December in this competition.

Facing them were a clever, experienced team - full of neat passing, solid possession and pacy movement which threatened a fragile Liverpool.

It needed a close-range save from Jose Reina to keep out a powerful header from Argentina striker Lisandro before patched-up Liverpool - who had David Ngog in Torres' role - continually wasted possession.

Former Liverpool and Lyon boss Gerard Houllier watched from the directors' box as the Reds struggled, while co-owner George Gillett was also in the posh seats, fresh from his trip to Saudi Arabia.

And there were signs of Liverpool defiance, a Dirk Kuyt headed disallowed for offside from Gerrard's deep cross.

That was virtually the only contribution from the skipper, who trudged off to be replaced by Fabio Aurelio. The groin injury sustained on England duty had given way again. No real damage we were told, but facing Manchester United on Sunday looks a long shot.

It needed a performance of defiance, spirit and sheer desire from Liverpool to survive this. And there were signs to warm the Kop.

Defender Cris was booked for a foul on Kuyt, the Dutchman's knee crashing into his head as he fell. The Brazilian did not last much longer, carried off in a daze.

Liverpool were beginning to show genuine fight now, and somehow France number two 'keeper Hugo Lloris kept out an Ngog effort after fine work by Kelly, Kuyt and Aurelio.

Aurelio had a powerful header saved by Lloris' left-hand from Kelly's run and cross, before Liverpool took a 41st minute lead.

Benayoun showed calmness to lift the ball over Lloris from eight yards, after Aurelio's cross evaded Kelly in the six-yard box.

Ngog was booked for a foul on Jeremy Toulalan, then Lyon skipper Sidney Govou was cautioned for flattening Emiliano Insua.

Benayoun, with a fine header, and Ngog - from eight-yards - could have stretched Liverpool's lead in the second period, while Lloris needed to be at full stretch to keep out Kuyt's header from Aurelio's cross.

Lyon sent on striker Bafetimbi Gomis to partner Lisandro in place of Ederson - and they began to stretch Liverpool.

Bosnian teenager Miralem Pjanic, followed relentlessly by Lucas, was starting to find space to produce the sort of tricks which have helped his country into the World Cup play-offs.

The pressure increased and Lyon equalised in the 72nd minute.

Liverpool failed to clear a corner, Reina made two outstanding saves from Toulalan and Govou before the ball reached substitute Gonalons, who dived to head home.

The hosts then lost young Kelly with an ankle injury, with Martin Skrtel taking over in a defence under increasing pressure.

Benitez sent on Andriy Voronin for Benayoun, to boos from the Kop, as Liverpool searched for a second.

But the decider came in injury-time from substitute Cesar Delgado, arriving at the far post to sidefoot past Reina from Govou's cross.

Champions League Tuesday Review


Rubin Kazan silenced the Nou Camp in their Champions League clash with Barcelona as the holders slipped to a shock 2-1 defeat.

Alexander Ryazantsev's 35-yard rocket gave the Russians the lead in the Group F encounter - and left Barca trailing for the first time this season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic levelled in the 48th minute, controlling the ball on his chest and firing home via a post, but there was another twist to come as Gokdeniz Karadeniz grabbed a 73rd-minute winner.

Another major upset looked on the cards at the San Siro as Dynamo Kiev twice led against Inter Milan only for Jose Mourinho's men to fight back to draw 2-2.

Taras Mykhalyk put Dynamo Kiev in front after five minutes and Lucio powered a header into his own net to restore their lead after Dejan Stankovic had levelled.

But Walter Samuel headed in at the right end two minutes after the break to make it 2-2.

Barca, Rubin and Dynamo are now all level on four points, with Inter bottom of the pool on three.

Liverpool's woes continued as they conceded an injury-time goal to lose 2-1 at home to Lyon in Group E.

The Reds survived early Lyon pressure and the loss of captain Steven Gerrard to injury midway through the first half to go ahead in the 41st minute through Yossi Benayoun.

But Maxime Gonalons headed an equaliser for the French giants after 72 minutes and Cesar Delgado struck a minute into added time to win it for the visitors, who top the group with three wins out of three.

Fiorentina are three points further back after a 4-3 win away to Debrecen, with Liverpool third a further three adrift.

There was a flying start in Hungary between Debrecen and Fiorentina as the Italian side led 2-1 after 10 minutes and 4-2 at half-time.

Peter Czvitkovics put Debrecen in front after two minutes but a brace from Adrian Mutu either side of an Alberto Gilardino effort put the visitors 3-1 in front.

Gergely Rudolf struck a second for the home side before Mario Santana scored the sixth goal of the half in the 37th minute.

There was only one goal in the second period, Adamo Coulibaly netting two minutes from time to bring Debrecen to within one of Fiorentina, but the Italians claimed the win.

Sevilla won 3-1 at Stuttgart to extend their 100% record in Group G and strengthen their position at its summit.

Sebastien Squillaci scored twice either side of a Jesus Navas goal as the visitors took command of the match before Elson scored a consolation for Markus Babbel's men.

Two own goals and a missed penalty sent Rangers on their way to a 4-1 home defeat to Romanian side Unirea Urziceni, who now lie second, five points behind Sevilla.

Fortune looked like it would favour the Scottish side when Ricardo Vilana deflected Pedro Mendes's shot into his own net to give them a second-minute lead.

But from there it went downhill for the home side, Marius Bilasco equalising in the 33rd minute and Steven Davis missing a penalty five minutes later.

Own goals from Kyle Lafferty and Lee McCulloch put Unirea in control, Pablo Brandan adding their fourth in the 65th minute.

Arsenal saw their 100% record in Group H ended as David Mendes Da Silva volleyed an injury-time equaliser for AZ Alkmaar to cancel out Cesc Fabregas' opener and earn a 1-1 draw for Ronald Koeman's men.

Ieroklis Stoltidis headed an injury-time winner for Olympiacos as they came from behind to beat Standard Liege 2-1 and strengthen their position in second behind the Gunners.

Igor De Camargo scored first for the Belgian side before Kostas Mitroglou levelled two minutes before the break.

Walcott out for four weeks


Arsenal forward Theo Walcott is facing three to four weeks on the sidelines with knee ligament damage.

Walcott was hurt in a challenge with Birmingham's Liam Ridgewell during the Gunners' 3-1 victory at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday and limped out of the action in the 33rd minute.

The England international was making his first start of the season having been unavailable since the summer with a back problem but is now facing another spell in the treatment room.

Walcott is certain to miss Tuesday's Champions League trip Holland to face AZ Alkmaar and is unlikely to be back in time for the reverse fixture against the Dutch side on November 4.

He will also miss Sunday's trip to West Ham, the Carling Cup fourth-round clash at home to Liverpool and the North London derby date with Tottenham.

Arsene Wenger will also be without midfield playmaker Tomas Rosicky for Tuesday's Group H clash, but left-back Gael Clichy is available again.

Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson, Eduardo, Lukasz Fabianski and Johan Djourou remain out of action and will not travel to Holland.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fabregas aware of Alkmaar threat


Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas
Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas has warned against taking Champions League new boys AZ Alkmaar lightly.

The Gunners head to DSB Stadium for Tuesday night's European tie in good form, having recorded successive victories to top Group H.

However, it could have been so different had Arsene Wenger's youngsters not recovered from a shocking opening to their last away game in Liege, where they trailed 2-0 inside the opening four minutes.

Yet having come through such a test of character at the compact Maurice Dufrasne Stadium, Fabregas maintains Arsenal will not be caught cold again.

"We have six points from two games in the group and if you think about the position we were in after just four minutes of our opening game, it shows how quickly football changes," the Spain international said.

"You must stay focused every day to be the best, because everyone else out there wants to be the best too.

"People expect the so-called smaller teams to be easy, but especially away from home those games are tough.

"They are usually fresher than the English or the Spanish teams because maybe their own league is not as intense."

Click here for more Champions League news

Arsenal had to be patient in their last Champions League fixture, eventually breaking down a stubborn Olympiacos side with late goals from Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin.

Fabregas, 22, believes keeping faith in their passing game is the only way to deal with such frustration and make sure of a positive result at the final whistle.

"Even if the chances were not going in, I was not worried because you could see the focus of the players," he said.

"Sometimes when things do not go so well for you, it can get into your head and you do not play your normal game.

"But against Olympiacos we carried on playing football, and kept it simple. As a result, eventually the goals came.

"There are so many players who can make the difference, and it has always been like that since I have been here.

"We have to keep doing that - be strong going forward while also defending as a team. We need the balance."

Holland international van Persie remains a keen follower of football in his homeland.

Alkmaar, now under the guidance of legendary Dutch defender Ronald Koeman, saw their hopes of a first win in the Champions League dashed following a stoppage-time equaliser by Standard Liege and are currently bottom of the group with just one point.

However, van Persie maintained: "AZ have lots of potential in their side - they really try to play football, they are not scared and they have a few good strikers there.

"I am convinced, though, if we give everything, close them down and play sharp, we will beat them."

Triple setback disrupts Sevilla


Andrés Palop
Sevilla FC will travel to Germany to take on VfB Stuttgart in UEFA Champions League Group G without the injured Renato, Andrés Palop and Abdoulay Konko.

Injured trio
Brazilian Renato, who has scored two goals in five Liga appearances this season, ended his side's 1-0 weekend defeat against RC Deportivo La Coruña complaining of calf cramps prompting coach Manuel Jiménez to leave the midfielder out of the squad for Stuttgart. Also missing will be goalkeeper Palop who took no part in Saturday's league defeat because of a calf injury while Konko has failed to recover from a virus. On a brighter note for Los Rojiblancos, forward Luis Fabiano returns to the set-up after a late arrival from international duty with Brazil forced him out of the Deportivo defeat. Sevilla have enjoyed a 100 per cent start in Group G following victories against FC Unirea Urziceni and Rangers FC.

Rangers v Unirea Urziceni


Rangers midfielder Pedro Mendes is doubtful for Tuesday's visit of Unirea Urziceni with a thigh strain.

The Portuguese missed the league win over St Johnstone and is struggling to face the Romanians.

Manager Walter Smith recalls defender Madjid Bougherra to the squad after accepting his explanation for his late return from World Cup duty.

Defender Sasa Papac says Rangers must win to retain hope of progressing to the last 16 of the Champions League.

Rangers (from): McGregor, Whittaker, Papac, Weir, Smith, Naismith, Davis, Thomson, McCulloch, Rothen, Novo, Lafferty, Boyd, Miller, Loy, McMillan, Fleck, Alexander, Bougherra.

Gerrard return boosts Liverpool


Liverpool v Lyon

Champions League Group E
Venue: Anfield
Date: Tuesday 20 October

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is fit to play against Lyon in Tuesday's Champions League Group E clash but striker Fernando Torres misses out.

Midfielder Gerrard sat out Saturday's controversial Premier League defeat to Sunderland with a groin injury but returned to training on Monday.

Torres is still recovering from an abdominal problem.

Liverpool lie third in the table after a win and a loss while Lyon have won their opening two matches.

Rooney among absent United five


Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra
Wayne Rooney is among five key Manchester United FC players ruled out of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League fixture at PFC CSKA Moskva.

Hope over duo
Rooney misses out with a calf strain and remained in England along with Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Ji-Sung Park and Darren Fletcher as the rest of the United squad headed to Russia on Monday afternoon. Giggs and Evra picked up knocks in Saturday's 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers FC, while Park and Fletcher both sat out that match. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson is nonetheless hopeful that striker Dimitar Berbatov and defender Nemanja Vidić will recover from minor complaints as United aim to keep up their perfect record in Group B.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sneijder hopes to meet Real in final


Inter playmaker Wesley Sneijder hopes to meet his old club Real Madrid in the final of the UEFA Champions League this season.

The Dutchman was surplus to requirements after Real went on a world-record buying spree that saw the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka join the Whites.

Sneijder has since jumped ship to join Jose Mourinho's Inter and has taken Serie A by storm. Despite his good start in Italy, Sneijder told Sky Sports News that he cannot stop thinking about Real.

"I played there for two years, I always follow their results. I had a very good relationship with all my team-mates and I wish them all the best, but I feel really good in this city and this team, now is not the time to look back," said the Dutchman.

"Playing against them would obviously be special and I hope it happens in the Champions League final. It would be nice and I would hope to win it."

On the differences between the Spanish and Italian leagues, Sneijder said, "I don't think there are major differences. They are both difficult leagues. Perhaps in Spain there's more technique, but in Italy it's very tough, there's a lot of battling and, especially for us midfielders, it's very difficult, you have to find the right solution quickly or you are fouled."

Asked if there are many teams stronger than Inter in the Champions League, he said, "No, I don't think there are many teams stronger than Inter, because everyone in the world talks about Barcelona, but they only managed a 0-0 draw against us.

"I think it was a good result. If everyone says Barcelona is the strongest team in the world, then we are also one of them because we drew against them. The Champions League is different from the Italian league, certainly because there are many strong teams, but to win it you need a great team, as well as a bit of luck.

"Why can Inter win the Champions League? Because I think we have a very strong defence, a good midfield and fantastic strikers. With this combination you can win the Champions League."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ancelotti reignites feud with Jose


Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has again showed his indifference to Inter coach Jose Mourinho.

Ancelotti, who was Mourinho's rival manager when the Italian was in charge of Milan last season, has stated that he is not a fan or 'disciple' of Mourinho.

According to, Ancelotti appeared on an Italian television programme that the Portuguese coach appeared on last year, when he famously compared himself to Jesus.

However Ancelotti insisted that he is his own man and would not be prescribing to the Mourinho school of coaching.

"I don't know the Special One," he said in the Daily Mirror.

"And if he thinks he is Jesus, I am certainly not one of his disciples."

Golasa to miss Juventus trip


Eyal Golasa
Maccabi Haifa FC midfielder Eyal Golasa will be out for several weeks after being diagnosed with a stress fracture of his hip.

Juve absence
The 18-year-old has been injured since the Israeli side's 1-0 loss to FC Girondins de Bordeaux in the UEFA Champions League at the end of last month and will now miss next week's trip to Juventus and possibly the return at the Ramat Gan Stadium a fortnight later. Golasa started both of Haifa's first two matches in Group A, where his team lie bottom without a point or a goal for their efforts.

Metzelder adds to Madrid concerns


Madrid defender Christoph Metzelder
Christoph Metzelder is a serious doubt for Real Madrid CF's UEFA Champions League meeting with AC Milan after suffering a ligament sprain in his right ankle during training.

Mounting injuries
The German international defender, who has featured just once in the Liga this season, was taken to hospital for tests on the injury on Tuesday evening and is expected to be out of action for between a week and ten days. Midfielder Guti, meanwhile, will begin a specific recovery programme after suffering a twisted left ankle. Madrid can ill afford more injuries ahead of the Group C meetings against Milan on 21 October and 3 November. Cristiano Ronaldo has already been ruled out of both matches with an ankle problem while Fernando Gago and Ruud van Nistelrooy are struggling with thigh injuries and may miss the first game at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ronaldo hopes for short absence


Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo is confident he will be back sooner than expected despite being told he faces around a month on the sidelines.

Ronaldo returned to Madrid on Sunday after limping out of Portugal's 3-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Hungary and medical tests indicated he would be out of action for "three to four weeks".

The injury is on the same ankle he was operated on last year, but the world's most expensive player has reassured fans it is in no way related and expects to be back sooner rather than later.

"I will work very hard to try to shorten the length of time I'm out, even though now what's important is to recuperate perfectly so as not to return to having problems," Ronaldo told AS.

"It's a different injury to that which I was operated on. It's got nothing to do with that.

"I'm calm because I know that with the desire I have to get better and the good work of the physiotherapists at Madrid everything will go very well."

Ronaldo's absence is a big blow to Madrid as the 24-year-old has scored nine goals in his seven competitive games since moving from Manchester United, and their dependence on him was evident as they slumped to defeat in their first match without him.

The Spanish giants will feel somewhat aggrieved with Portugal for utilising Ronaldo despite him missing the Sevilla match the previous week with injury and being a major doubt right until the day before the qualifier.

However, Ronaldo insists there was never any question of him missing out.

"I felt very good, but I wasn't at 100%, I had a bit of discomfort," he added. "But I wanted to push myself to help my country go to the World Cup.

"I'm upset because I was in a good period of form and so being injured again is something that affects me even more.

"I'm not the country's savour, but after the defeat against Sevilla, I wanted to help my Real Madrid team-mates win the next few games."

Ronaldo is almost certain to miss the Primera Division games against Valladolid, Sporting Gijon and Getafe as well as the Champions League home clash against AC Milan and the Copa del Rey match at Alcorcon.

He is also likely to be absent from Madrid's visit to the San Siro and the derby against Atletico Madrid.

Monday, October 5, 2009

UEFA reduce Gilardino ban


Alberto Gilardino's
Alberto Gilardino's two-match Champions League suspension was reduced to one game by UEFA following an appeal.

The Italy international was dismissed for going into a challenge with Jeremy Toulalan with his elbow raised during last month's 1-0 defeat at Lyon.

A statement from Fiorentina read: "Alberto Gilardino's European ban has been reduced to one game and the player will return to play at Debrecen on October 20."

Gilardino, who has already served the one-match ban in last week's clash against Liverpool, will be available for the meeting in Hungary against Debrecen on October 20.

Fiorentina lie second in Group E, level on three points with Liverpool.

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