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British football clubs out to impress after opening stalemates

SoccerNews in UEFA Champions League 29 Sep 2008


Arsenal, embarrassed by newly-promoted Hull City in the Premier League at the weekend, are out to put that rare reverse to their impressive start to the season behind them against FC Porto on Tuesday.

The Gunners, beaten finalists in 2006, needed a late William Gallas equaliser to eke out an unconvincing 1-1 draw against Dynamo Kiev in their Group G opener.

Their Portuguese guests have an unhappy record against English clubs, losing in each of their last four Champions League campaigns.

But the 2004 winners turn up at the Emirates Stadium on a high after a 3-1 home success over Turkish giants Fenerbahce a fortnight ago.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has warned his highly-skilled but largely-inexperienced side will struggle to win on foreign fields, making this home fixture a must-win affair.

With trips to Fenerbahce and Porto still to come, Wenger believes this is the hardest group he has faced in 12 years with Arsenal.

“This group is tougher than in previous years. It is definitely the most even group we have had because there are no easy games,” he said.

“That makes the match with Porto more important. We know in the Champions League you qualify with 10 points, so if we win our home games we are through.”

Arsenal weren't the only British club to stumble on their first steps in Europe's top club competition – champions Manchester United were held to a goalless draw by Villarreal at Old Trafford, and Celtic could only manage the same result against Aalborg.

The Danish minnows host United, who moved into the top half of the Premier League table for the first time after their win over Bolton on Saturday, in a tie that pits Scot Bruce Rioch against his compatriot Sir Alex Ferguson.

On paper at least Celtic have a far stiffer test in an away trip to Villarreal.

Defender Mark Wilson said: “We will be looking to pick up a point or three but if we don't, I don't think it's the end of the campaign by any means.”

In Germany, Bayern Munich, who took three points off Steaua Bucharest in their curtain-raiser, are involved in arguably the draw of the night against seven-time French champions Lyon.

Jurgen Klinsmann's German champions need a result at the Allianz Arena after slumping to two consecutive defeats in the Bundesliga, their 5-2 drubbing by Werder Bremen followed at the weekend by their first loss to Hanover in 20 years.

Klinsmann described that defeat as “unnecessary and very annoying”.

“To improve, we need to get back the things which are missing: creativity, some cleverness on the ball and hard work off the ball,” he added.

Lyon, perennial quarter-finalists, kicked off their campaign with a come from behind 2-2 draw against Italians Fiorentina, who host Steaua Bucharest in Group F.

In Group H, two-time champions Juventus, returning to the event after a two-season absence, are out to follow up their opening win over UEFA Cup winners Zenit St. Petersburg, away to Belarus outfit Bate Borisov.

In the same group, Zenit have the not inconsiderable job of hosting nine-time champions Real Madrid, comfortable 2-0 winners over Borisov in their opener.

Tuesday's fixtures:

Group E

Aalborg (DEN) v Manchester United (ENG)

Villarreal (ESP) v Celtic (SCO)

Group F

Fiorentina (ITA) v Steaua Bucharest (ROM)

Bayern Munich (GER) v Lyon (FRA)

Group G

Arsenal (ENG) v Porto (POR)

Fenerbahce (TUR) v Dynamo Kiev (UKR)

Group H

Bate Borislov (BLR) v Juventus (ITA)

Zenit St Petersburg (RUS) v Real Madrid (ESP)


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