O’Shea confident of retaining Champions League

Manchester United defender John O’Shea is confident they can retain the Champions League trophy this season.

If United manage to retain the Champions League title, they will be the first ever side to do so.

“It would be very special to be the first team to retain this trophy,” said O’Shea.

“It is a major challenge for us but facing demands like that and responding to them is what this club is all about.

“If we are still in it after the group stages, when the competition really kicks in, we are in with a great chance.

“With the squad we have, we feel with a bit of luck at the right time, it is ours for the taking.”

He added on their clash against Aalborg tonight: “The result Aalborg got at Celtic was an eye-opener for us.

“We saw how competitive and compact they were and we will need the right attitude to get the right result.

“We have a lot of experience of keeping the ball and quietening down a great atmosphere away from home in Europe and we will need it if we are going to get the result we want.”

[Source: Sky Sports]

Tue 30 September, 2008
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Berbatov to blame for Spurs’ poor season

Former England manager Terry Venables says Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov is to blame for Tottenham’s poor start to the season.

Berbatov made clear his desire to join Manchester United at the start of this season, something that Venables reckons unsettled the whole squad.

The Bulgarian joined United on transfer deadline day.

“Berbatov kept telling us he had ‘a dream’. Well, good for you Dimi. You had a dream with a few extra noughts added to your bank balance,” Venables told The Sun.

“But did Spurs have a dream too? You got your way but your poisonous presence at the start of the season – the brooding and the reluctance to play – has cost the club that believed in you.”

“They thought they were going to get Andrei Arshavin,” added Venables.

“This was a massive managerial blunder by Spurs, especially when they had allowed Keane to leave. But letting Berbatov and Keane go without having Arshavin in the bag was a boardroom blunder.”

[Source: The Sun]

Tue 30 September, 2008
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Van Nistelrooy expects tough match against Zenit

Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy expects a difficult game against Zenit in the Champions League tonight.

Nistelrooy has shown good form for the Spanish side and managed to score the winner against Real Betis in La Liga on Saturday.

“I form part of the team and Do my job. We have all started well and we have shown that we never give up,” he told AS.

“It is a good time to go to Russia, but it is going to be a difficult game and we will have to work hard in Saint Petersburg.

“Zenit are doing well and it will be as difficult as the game against Betis was.”

“Zenit are a team who have found a good balance of strength and speed, while tactically they are also very sound,” said Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster ahead of the game.

“Their Dutch coach, Advocaat has instilled a very offensive philosophy in the team and they like to attack, just like us.”

[Source: AS]

Tue 30 September, 2008
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Lotito hits out at Mourinho

Lazio president Claudio Lotito has hit out at Inter coach Jose Mourinho’s comment, that the Biancocelesti is not a contender for the Serie A title.

Lazio are currently at the top of the Serie A and are two points ahead of Mourinho’s Inter.

Mourinho said: “When I look at the table, with all due respect, I don’t look at Lazio, Napoli or Catania. I see that we are ahead of Roma, Juventus and Milan.

“Mourinho should know that football is changing,” Lotito told La Domenica Sportiva.

“Economic potential does not count for much these days but the moral values as well as the spirit and sacrifice of the group does and they can lead to important results.

“I am aware that Mourinho considers Lazio as a team who are not ready to reach a certain range.”

[Source: La Domenica Sportiva]

Tue 30 September, 2008
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Is Moyes the problem or the victim at Everton?

Just what is going on at Everton? After the fine season they had last time around, hopes would have been high for this season.

A summer of a lack of signings, talk of financial difficulties and the falling through of the plans for a new ground took away much of the optimism, but nobody would have expected the spirited Everton squad under David Moyes to give anything less than their best shot at closing the gap on the big four.

Uncertainty

The uncertainty over the manager signing his new contract, reported to be a five-year deal worth around £60,000-a-week, seemed as though it would be easy enough to sort out. However, that deal is still not signed and to an neutral observer, it is not clear whether it is Moyes refusing to sign, or the club refusing to offer.

Now Moyes admits the delay in agreeing his new contract may be affecting the team’s performances. Following their insipid display in the 2-0 defeat to their bitter rivals Liverpool on Saturday he said;

“What happens is that when the manager’s position becomes uncertain then uncertainty can come into the club, I accept that. That is not the reason for this performance or the ones before but I agree it doesn’t help the situation. It is something that needs to be addressed. I think both parties are aware that it has to be sorted and, hopefully, there will be some news soon. It is not a matter of compromise. I have been sitting waiting for the contract to come back from the club for quite a while now but I am not unsettled by it, not at all.”

Everton have now lost all three of their league games at Goodison Park this season and face a crucial Uefa Cup trip to against Standard Liege on Thursday, with the tie locked at 2-2. The game really does have significance for the whole of Everton’s season.

Job for life

Some Everton fans are calling for David Moyes’ head. That would have seemed unthinkable only a short time ago as he seemed to be one of those managers like Wenger and Ferguson, who pretty much had a job for life if he wanted it. Now, all of a sudden, his position looks anything but stable.

So what has gone wrong behind the scenes? Whatever it is, it seems to have deeply affected the players. For a couple of years now Jolean Lescott has been one of the Premier Leagues finest and most consistent defenders. He looks like a shadow of his former self at the moment and the whole Everton back four, so reliable last year, are looking really shaky.

Saha on the bench

Going forward, Everton don’t look to have much of a threat. I was amazed to see Moyes select a team with a five man midfield and only Yakubu up front for the game at home to Liverpool. One of the only summer signings was Louis Saha from Manchester United, yet he sat on the bench for a majority of the game.

Surely David Moyes wasn’t looking only for damage limitation in a game that could have turned the season around for the whole club was he?

£15million Felliani

The only big money signing of the summer was Felliani who arrived for a fee of £15million. So far, he hasn’t lived up to that sort of price tag, although he is only twenty and it is still early days. The problem for Everton and Moyes is that they can’t afford to wait around to see if he will get better.

It will have hurt the Everton faithful that their team didn’t really seem to go for the win at home to Liverpool and that the one bright spot of their fairly dismal summer was left twiddling his thumbs on the bench rather than trying to cause problems for the Liverpool back four.

Things going awry

I am a neutral observer and I am genuinely disappointed that things seem to be going a little awry at Goodison Park. I don’t know if David Moyes is the problem or the victim in what is going on. I also don’t know if many of the players have hit a bad run of form at the same time, or whether there is something much deeper that is concerning them and affecting their performances.

Whatever the situation is, Everton and David Moyes need to sort out the confusion quickly. As more time passes, especially if they don’t manage to get a result in Belgium on Thursday, the murmurings of discontent from a small group of fans will continue to grow louder.

Can Everton fans put their finger on the problem? Should Moyes stay or go?

Tue 30 September, 2008
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Revitalised Torres leaves PSV facing Anfield trial

PSV Eindhoven's hopes of Champions League survival have already suffered a huge blow at the hands of the Spanish following Atletico Madrid's 3-0 win in the Philips Stadium two weeks ago.

Now the Dutch giants face the daunting prospect of keeping Atletico old boy Fernando Torres under tabs if they are to revive their bid to reach the knockout stages at the expense of Liverpool at Anfield here on Wednesday.

Rafael Benitez's side are unbeaten this season and Torres's return to goalscoring form has left Liverpool's Spanish manager brimming with optimism about the rest of the campaign.

Torres had appeared to be suffering something of a hangover from his efforts in Spain's triumphant Euro 2008 campaign but he looked back to his best as he claimed both goals in the derby win over Everton at the weekend.

“Fernando is the kind of player who can change games and it is very positive for us that he has confidence now,” Benitez said.

“He's a threat for defenders and the only thing he is missing at the moment is his physical condition. When he came back from the European Championships it was important for him to rest and then train properly.

“He had an injury and he still has to improve physically. He is working so hard and he will get better – he will have more pace and be stronger.”

Torres claimed a remarkable haul of 33 goals last season in his first term on Merseyside. Benitez is not insisting on a similar return this time around but believes Torres can make an even bigger all-round contribution to his side.

“Fernando knows he can still improve a lot and the main thing for me is that his mentality is really good. He scored 33 last season but I haven't set him a target this season. If he scores 32 I will be pleased!”

In contrast to Liverpool's bright start to the season, PSV have struggled for form and even head coach Huub Stevens admitted their fans had been entitled to boo his players off the pitch after a lacklustre 1-0 win over the Dutch league's FC Volendam at the weekend.

Stevens has never won a match in England – as a player with PSV or as a coach with former club Schalke – and the most recent meetings of the two clubs do not augur well, PSV having failed to score in any of the four meetings between them in the 2006-07 season.

A goalless draw in Eindhoven was followed by a 2-0 defeat at Anfield in the group stages before Liverpool eased through the quarter-final 4-0 on aggregate, and Stevens recognises his side will have to be much better than they were at home to Atletico.

“We know we just have to learn from what happened, because going to Liverpool will be even more difficult,” He said. “But we have only played one match, there are still five to go so we can turn this round.

“Madrid struck against us at the right moments, and we must not let Liverpool do the same to us.”

PSV will arrive at Anfield with some familiar faces, with former Liverpool defender Jan Kromkamp now a key member of Stevens' squad.

Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson was at Manchester City until the end of last season, although he may prefer to forget his last outing on English soil, an 8-1 thrashing by Middlesbrough on the last day of the campaign.

Benitez meanwhile is hoping to have midfielders Javier Mascherano and Yossi Benayoun available after they both sat out the Everton match on Saturday with minor injuries.

Tue 30 September, 2008
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English football clubs look to maintain victorious start, French to bounce back

Both Chelsea and Liverpool will be looking to notch up their second successive Champions League victory when they play surprise Romanian package Cluj and PSV Eindhoven respectively on Wednesday.

Chelsea outclassed French side Bordeaux in their first match of the campaign a fortnight ago but may find Cluj a tougher proposition after they pulled off a stunning victory over AS Roma in their debut in the competition.

Liverpool started with a hardfought 2-1 away win over Bordeaux' French rivals Marseille and have a good recent record over PSV while the Dutch side's coach Huub Stevens has never won either as a player or coach in England.

Marseille will travel with some trepidation to Madrid to take on dark horses Atletico Madrid.

Chelsea will be hoping to sink their fangs into Cluj's jugular when they travel to Transylvania – the land of horror story icon Dracula.

Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari warned fans not to expect the samba style just yet after the London all-stars were made to battle for a 2-0 win over Stoke on Saturday – and it will be no different against the Romanians.

Cluj inflicted one of shocks of the first round by humbling Roma in the Italian capital with the help of a double from Argentinian Juan Culio.

Chelsea may have hit Bordeaux for four the same night, but Cluj – who won their first championship last season – appear likely to pose more problems as Scolari admitted.

“The Bordeaux game was a good experience for us but the game against Cluj will be different,” he said. “If Cluj can win away from home (like they did at Roma) then we are in danger.”

Liverpool go into Wednesday's tie away to PSV Eindhoven full of confidence.

Rafa Benitez will hand Ryan Babel a star role as the Dutch international faces a side he first played against as an Ajax player.

“Our view of Ryan is a player who starts games and has an impact from the beginning, not just as a sub,” Benitez told the club's website Monday. “But first of all he has to improve tactically and we are working with him on that.”

However, the man that PSV should really be wary of is Fernando Torres as he showed a return to goalscoring form with a double at the weekend in the Liverpool derby victory over Everton.

Benitez's side are unbeaten this season and Torres's return to form has left Liverpool's Spanish manager brimming with optimism about the rest of the campaign.

Torres had appeared to be suffering something of a hangover from his efforts in Spain's triumphant Euro 2008 campaign but he looked back to his best as he claimed both goals in the derby win over Everton at the weekend.

“Fernando is the kind of player who can change games and it is very positive for us that he has confidence now,” Benitez said.

“He's a threat for defenders and the only thing he is missing at the moment is his physical condition. When he came back from the European Championships it was important for him to rest and then train properly.

“He had an injury and he still has to improve physically. He is working so hard and he will get better – he will have more pace and be stronger.”

Atletico will seek to rebound from a 1-0 defeat to Sevilla at the weekend and are hopeful that both Dutch international defender John Heitinga and seasoned Portuguese midfielder Maniche will be fit to return – Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan is definitely a non starter.

Marseille coach Eric Gerets is praying that Ivory Coast striker Bakary Kone is fully recovered from a leg muscle injury to partner Senegal's Mamadou Niang up front.

Bordeaux would probably have preferred not to be meeting a Roma side that looks to have steadied the ship after a shaky start to the season – in as much as they managed to win at the weekend, beating Atalanta 2-0.

While they have been boosted by the return of French central defender Philippe Mexes there are doubts over their talismanic captain Francesco Totti, who put a premature halt to his training session on Monday because of concerns over one of his knees.

Bordeaux by contrast should have Brazilian star Wendel and midfield partner Alou Diarra back in harness after they sat out the 1-1 draw with St Etienne on Sunday – however veteran goalkeeper Ulrich Rame seems certain to miss the clash because of a groin problem.

Tue 30 September, 2008
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ManUtd. take Danish minnows seriously

Sir Alex Ferguson has vowed to take Champions League minnows Aalborg seriously in Tuesday's Group E clash in Denmark after admitting he is still scarred by the memories of Manchester United's embarrassment in Copenhagen two years ago.

European champions United launched the defence of their title with a disappointing 0-0 draw against Villarreal at Old Trafford two weeks ago and must claim three points in the Energi Nord Arena to put their campaign back on track.

But after crashing to a shock 1-0 defeat against FC Copenhagen after fielding an under-strength team in November 2006, United boss Ferguson admits that he will not take any risks against Bruce Rioch's Danish champions.

“I made a mistake when I picked my team in Copenhagen a couple of years ago when we appeared comfortable in the group, but we lost and ended up scrapping to qualify,” said Ferguson.

“So I will be picking my strongest team this time because it will be a difficult game against Aalborg. Their ground is tighter than what we are used to and their support will be fantastic. It will be a good atmosphere, but I'm confident we can cope with it.

“Aalborg had a fantastic result against Celtic in Glasgow in the last game and we only had a draw against Villarreal. Villarreal maybe got us at a good time, but we are advancing to our best form and we are in a better shape now.

“The players realise how important qualifying from the group stage is and, if we get ourselves to February when the competition really starts, then we have as good a chance as anybody.”

Dimitar Berbatov, United's recent signing, has struggled to find his form since arriving from Spurs in September and he continues to search for his first goal in a red shirt.

But Ferguson insists that the Bulgarian, who is set to partner Wayne Rooney against Aalborg, is showing signs that he will quickly find his feet at Old Trafford.

“Berbatov had only played about one pre-season game for Spurs before he came to us and he has since had to take part in two tremendously difficult away games with us (at Liverpool and Chelsea),” said Ferguson.

“That's asking a lot for somebody to adjust to at this stature of club, but we saw against Bolton at the weekend just how good he can be here. His movement, ability to lead the line was there for all to see and it's just a question of us getting the best out of him.”

Rioch, Aalborg's Scottish coach, famously signed Dennis Bergkamp for Arsenal during his year in charge at Highbury in the mid-1990's and he admits that he sees similarities between Berbatov and Bergkamp.

“It took Dennis seven games to score his first goal at Arsenal,” commented Rioch.

“7million pounds was a big fee in 1995, but we just kept playing him and he broke his duck with two goals against Southampton.

“After that, history shows that he became one of the best players that Arsenal have ever had.

“Berbatov is another silky player and he had a great partnership with Robbie Keane at Spurs, but sometimes it takes players time to get going at a new club. If the ball doesn't roll in quickly, it can take a bit of time.

“But Sir Alex doesn't make too many mistakes and I'm sure Berbatov will show his quality once he finds the rhythm to his game.”

Aalborg are currently languishing near the foot of the Danish Superliga and Rioch admits that the chances of an upset against United are remote.

“If we get a result against United, just listen to the noise in the city afterward. It will be like an earthquake!” said Rioch.

Tue 30 September, 2008
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Scolari issues a warning to players

ChelseaÂ’s manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has said that if any of his players are unhappy at the club they will be free to leave during JanuaryÂ’s transfer window.

This statement comes in the wake of Nicolas AnelkaÂ’s unhappiness at having been left out of the squad that played Stoke City on Saturday.

Scolari added that he wanted players to fight for their places and now with Drogba back, Anelka has to fight for his place back.

He also said that the team was important and if any player was there for himself and not the team was free to go elsewhere.

Tue 30 September, 2008
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Leixoes share lead after win at Belenenses

A narrow win at Belenenses in Portugal’s capital city allowed Leixoes Matosinhos to move into shared first place with Nacional Funchal and Sporting Lisbon.

The first 75 minutes went by scoreless, but Leixoes then finally got the goal they needed as Braga beat the opposing goalkeeper for 0-1.

The Matosinhos outfit, who finished 14th in the 2007-08 league and only just avoided relegation, now have nine points from the first three games.

Nacional Funchal and Sporting Lisbon have the same amount, but a slightly better goal record.

The only two unbeaten teams after four rounds are FC Porto and Benfica, but both were held to two draws, leaving them trailing the three leaders.

Mon 29 September, 2008
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