Wenger praises ´top-class´ Benitez

Arsene Wenger described Rafael Benitez as a “top-class manager” ahead of Arsenal’s fixture against Napoli in the UEFA Champions League.

Wenger’s side welcome the Serie A outfit to the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday for the second game of their Group F campaign.

Both teams started with 2-1 victories, with Arsenal winning away in Marseille and Napoli tasting home success against last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund.

Benitez was appointed at the Stadio San Paolo in the close-season and has yet to see his side lose in Serie A.

And Wenger is anticipating a tough encounter against a familiar foe, after going head-to-head with the Spaniard during his stints at Liverpool and Chelsea.

“I think he is a top-class manager,” the Frenchman said. “He has proven that. So when you are confronted with his teams you know it will always be difficult.

“But we are up for it and we have the confidence to do it.

“Our home form will be important, we have taken three points away from home. We know away from home we are in good form as well so I believe our home matches against all three teams will be important.”

Arsenal sit top of the Premier League after taking 15 points from six matches and are on a nine-match winning run in all competitions, after bouncing back strongly from an opening-day defeat to Aston Villa.

They continued their fine form with a 2-1 triumph over Swansea City on Saturday, with goals from Serge Gnabry and Aaron Ramsey.

But Wenger described talk of his team being favourites for the Premier League title as “ridiculous”.

“I think that our job most importantly is to find a balance between ambition and humility,” he added.

“Ambition of course because we want to win but humility as well because we have only played six games. So to talk about the title today is absolutely ridiculous.

“What we have done is just what we want to do, to continue the same ambition. I think the team has a good humility level and is keen to improve.”

Mon 30 September, 2013
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Wenger praises ´top-class´ Benitez

Arsene Wenger described Rafael Benitez as a “top-class manager” ahead of Arsenal’s fixture against Napoli in the UEFA Champions League.

Wenger’s side welcome the Serie A outfit to the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday for the second game of their Group F campaign.

Both teams started with 2-1 victories, with Arsenal winning away in Marseille and Napoli tasting home success against last season’s runners-up Borussia Dortmund.

Benitez was appointed at the Stadio San Paolo in the close-season and has yet to see his side lose in Serie A.

And Wenger is anticipating a tough encounter against a familiar foe, after going head-to-head with the Spaniard during his stints at Liverpool and Chelsea.

“I think he is a top-class manager,” the Frenchman said. “He has proven that. So when you are confronted with his teams you know it will always be difficult.

“But we are up for it and we have the confidence to do it.

“O
00004000
ur home form will be important, we have taken three points away from home. We know away from home we are in good form as well so I believe our home matches against all three teams will be important.”

Arsenal sit top of the Premier League after taking 15 points from six matches and are on a nine-match winning run in all competitions, after bouncing back strongly from an opening-day defeat to Aston Villa.

They continued their fine form with a 2-1 triumph over Swansea City on Saturday, with goals from Serge Gnabry and Aaron Ramsey.

But Wenger described talk of his team being favourites for the Premier League title as “ridiculous”.

“I think that our job most importantly is to find a balance between ambition and humility,” he added.

“Ambition of course because we want to win but humility as well because we have only played six games. So to talk about the title today is absolutely ridiculous.

“What we have done is just what we want to do, to continue the same ambition. I think the team has a good humility level and is keen to improve.”

Mon 30 September, 2013
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UEFA Champions League Preview: CSKA Moscow v Viktoria Plzen

Viktoria Plzen travel to Russia for the first time in European competition on Wednesday to face CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Champions League.

The game will take place in Zenit St Petersburg’s Petrovsky Stadium due to the state of the pitch at CSKA’s Arena Khimki and both sides will be looking to get their first points of the campaign following defeats on the opening matchday in group D.

CSKA lost 3-0 away at holders Bayern Munich, while Plzen went down by the same margin at home to Manchester City.

Both sides will be aware of the importance of this game if either are to qualify for the second round or, at worst, finish third and earn a spot in the last 32 of the Europa League.

The hosts have used Zenit’s stadium on 12 occasions in the past 10 years with mixed results, winning five and losing five of those matches.

Pavel Vrba’s Plzen have been much more consistent on their travels and they arrive in Russia on the back of a seven-match unbeaten run – including five wins – on the road in Europe.

CSKA’s only previous meeting with Czech opposition came three years ago when they earned four points from their matches against Sparta Prague in the Europa League group stage.

Leonid Slutsky’s side are winless in their last three Russian Premier League games, including Saturday’s 2-0 reverse away at Terek Grozny, and they currently sit in fourth place, five points adrift of leaders Zenit.

Alan Dzagoev and Seydou Doumbia are doubts with hamstring injuries, while Aleksandrs Cauna will be out until November with a fractured toe.

CSKA will be hoping for a change in fortunes in front of goal, as they have gone 279 minutes without scoring in all competitions.

Plzen, unbeaten after 10 games in the Czech Liga, had suffered a similar goal drought – 272 minutes – until Frantisek Rajtoral’s opener in Friday’s 2-1 win at Vysocina Jihlava. That result left Vrba’s side in second, four points behind Sparta.

The manager revealed that David Limbersky is a major doubt for the game after sustaining a thigh injury on Friday, while defender Radim Reznik returned in the same match and could feature.

Mon 30 September, 2013
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UEFA Champions League Preview: Anderlecht v Olympiacos

Both Anderlecht and Olympiacos will be hoping to get off the mark when the pair meet in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

The two sides tasted defeat in their opening Group C matches, Anderlecht losing 2-0 to Benfica while Olympiacos were thumped 4-1 at home by Paris Saint-Germain.

Wednesday represents the first meeting between the two sides since 1974, when Anderlecht squeezed through 5-4 on aggregate in the second round of the European Cup after winning the first leg 5-1 in Belgium.

The reigning Belgian Pro League champions are unbeaten in their last seven games against Greek opposition, and their record at home to sides from the Mediterranean country reads four wins and two defeats from six matches.

Olympiacos’ last game against a club from Belgium came in the group stage of the Champions League four years ago, when they defeated Standard Liege 2-1 in Greece before going down 2-0 in the return fixture.

Anderlecht finished bottom of their group last season, while Olympiacos finished third in theirs and entered the UEFA Europa League, where they were knocked out immediately by Levante of La Liga.

John van den Brom’s men currently lie fourth in the Belgian top flight, nine points adrift of leaders Liege after winning six and losing three of their opening nine fixtures. They will go into Wednesday’s game on the back of Sunday’s 2-0 home success over Lierse, Guillaume Gillet and Dennis Praet the goalscorers.

Ronald Vargas is a long-term injury absentee for Van Den Brom after undergoing knee surgery in July.

Olympiacos have enjoyed a fine start to their domestic season though, holding a three-point lead over PAOK at the top of the Greek Super League with five wins and a draw from their opening six matches, including Saturday’s 2-0 success at Panionios.

David Fuster and Paulo Machado are unlikely to feature with hamstring and knee problems, while Michel’s side will be looking to avoid falling to their 100th defeat in European competition at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.

Mon 30 September, 2013
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UEFA Champions League Preview: Bayer Leverkusen v Real Sociedad

Bayer Leverkusen and Real Sociedad will be seeking their first UEFA Champions League points of the season when they meet on Wednesday.

The Liga outfit were beaten 2-0 by Shakhtar Donetsk in their group stage opener, while Leverkusen went down 4-2 against Premier League champions Manchester United.

However, the Bundesliga side have won all three matches in the league since their defeat at Old Trafford, scoring eight goals and conceding just once in the process.

Sami Hyypia’s side third in the German top flight after their 2-0 win over Hannover on Saturday and face champions Bayern Munich on Saturday.

However, Hyypia is focused on Wednesday’s game, rather than the meeting with Pep Guardiola’s men.

“The next game is the most important,” he told the Bundesliga website. “We play Real first. It’s not a problem.

“Spanish teams are always very strong technically and play attractive football.

“That won’t be any different against Real Sociedad. Of course we’re at home and want to win. Otherwise we won’t go any further.”

Leverkusen have enjoyed 100 per cent records in the group stages of the competition in their past two campaigns, with Hyypia unsure on whether he will rotate his squad for the clash with Jagoba Arrasate’s men.

Sociedad have never recorded a European win on German soil, losing two and drawing one of their three encounters in the country.

Arrasate’s charges have not won since their Champions League qualifier against Lyon in August, losing two and drawing three of their last five league games.

The 35-year-old was pleased with the performance of his side during their 1-1 draw with Sevilla on Saturday but feels that they are in need of a win to boost confidence.

“I’m happy with the effort that we put in (against Sevilla),” he said.

“But we need a win to recover that joy, that confidence that victories bring.”

Xabi Prieto is unlikely to feature for the visitors, having suffered a thigh tear in his side’s 4-1 defeat against Barcelona, while loanee Esteban Granero will miss out.

The midfielder suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury during the defeat against Shakhtar.

In what will be the sides’ first meeting, defeat would see the losers cast three points adrift at the bottom of Group A.

Mon 30 September, 2013
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UEFA Champions League Preview: Shakhtar Donetsk v Manchester United

Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester United will meet for the first time in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League clash in Ukraine.

The two sides come into the game having won their opening Group A fixtures, with Shakhtar defeating Real Sociedad 2-0 in Spain while United ran out 4-2 victors over Bayer Leverkusen at Old Trafford.

Shakhtar have won all three of their previous home fixtures against English opposition in the Champions League, with successes over Arsenal in 2000-01 and 2010-11 before last season’s 2-1 victory over Chelsea, which helped eliminate the then-holders of the competition.

United’s last visit to Ukraine was a successful one though, ending in a 4-2 win over Dynamo Kiev in the 2007-08 group stage.

And Mircea Lucescu’s men head into the fixture on the back of a run of inconsistent league form, having won only one of their past five matches in the Ukrainian Premier League, a division they have won for the last four consecutive seasons.

They currently sit third in the table, having dropped 10 points from the opening 11 games – just one point less than they missed out on in the whole of the last term.

Shakhtar’s latest outing saw them come from two goals down to rescue a point against local rivals Metalurh Donetsk, with Eduardo coming off the bench to bag the equaliser with eight minutes remaining.

United, under new manager David Moyes, have also struggled for form domestically this season.

The three-time European champions have taken just seven points from their first six Premier League games, their worst start to a season since the 1989-90 campaign.

Moyes came in for criticism following Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat at the hands of West Bromwich Albion, a result that leaves the reigning champions eight points adrift of early leaders Arsenal.

However, the former Everton boss will have Nani available for the trip to Donetsk after the Portuguese winger missed the opening game through suspension following his red card in last season’s exit to Real Madrid.

Wayne Rooney’s two goals against Leverkusen made him the all-time leading British scorer in the competition with 29 goals, while Robin van Persie’s strike in the same game means he has now scored in 10 consecutive Champions League seasons.

Mon 30 September, 2013
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Terry on course for new Chelsea contract

John Terry is set to be offered a new contract with Chelsea, Sky Sports understands.

The Blues captain, who scored the equaliser in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur, is currently fifth on the clubs all time appearances list.

He is well on course to rise up that list, having played every minute in the Premier League under Jose Mourinho this season, and the Chelsea boss is sure that the 32 year old can secure a new deal with the club.

Bar a brief spell on loan with Nottingham Forest in 2000, the former England skipper has spent his entire career at Stamford Bridge.

In his fifteen years with the first team, he has won twelve major trophies, including three Premier League title, five FA Cups and the 2012 Champions League.

He was an unused substitute in last week’s defeat to Basel, but could be recalled for tomorrow’s trip to Steaua Bucharest with the Blues desperate for all three points.

Mon 30 September, 2013
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Lennartsson leaves Elfsborg

Swedish champions Elfsborg have parted company with head coach Jorgen Lennartsson.

Lennartsson led the club to the Allsvenskan title last season but has left after Elfsborg fell off the pace domestically and failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stages.

Elfsborg sit in sixth after their 1-1 draw with Helsingborg on Sunday, leaving them 11 points behind leaders Malmo.

Youth coach Klas Ingesson will take over for the time being, with chairman Bosse Johansson explaining that the decision has been taken with a view to next season.

“Jorgen has done a fantastic job as head coach,” he said in a statement on the club’s website.

“I want to emphasise that this is a pro-active change ahead of the new, big challenges in 2014.

“We are implementing this change now, to give the team plenty of time to prepare for next season.”

Stefan Andreasson, Elfsborg club manager, added: “Our goal is to be a top team in Swedish football. Klas Ingesson takes over responsibility for the rest of the year, along with Peter Wettergren.

“We hope that the change will also have a positive effect in the short term.”

Mon 30 September, 2013
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Moutinho: No regrets over Monaco switch

Monaco midfielder Joao Moutinho does not regret joining the Ligue 1 club from Porto in May.

Moutinho became only the third player to score in the league for Claudio Ranieri’s side this season when he netted a 13th-minute equaliser in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Reims.

The Portugal international, who was close to signing for Tottenham in 2012, believes he made the right decision in moving to Monaco, despite missing out on UEFA Champions League football.

“I think I have played for big clubs like Sporting Lisbon and especially Porto,” he told Le Parisien.

“The lack of interest from top European clubs in the summer? It does not matter to me.

“I am in a great club that has the ambition to compete with these kinds of teams.”

Monaco are currently top of Ligue 1 ahead of champions Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference.

Radamel Falcao, another player to join Monaco since the club were promoted at the end of last season, leads the Ligue 1 goalscoring charts with seven goals from eight games.

Mon 30 September, 2013
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City keen to nick Januzaj from neighbours

Manchester City have offered to triple the wages of Manchester United starlet Adnan Januzaj if he makes the switch to Etihad Stadium, according to the Metro.

The Belgian midfielder is one of the hottest prospects in the Premier League, and made his first team bow as a substitute against Wigan Athletic in the Community Shield at Wembley last month.

He has since come off the bench twice in the league, and in last week’s victory over fierce rivals Liverpool in the Capital One Cup third round.
The 18 year old is currently locked in contract talks with the Premier League champions, who were further alerted to his potential after he impressed in pre-season.

However, City boss Manuel Pellegrino is also a fan, and has been given the green light to offer a £45,000 per-week contract.

Januzaj is ineligible to feature against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday evening, but will hoping for his first start for United against bottom of the league Sunderland on Saturday.

Mon 30 September, 2013
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