Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Exciting encounters for the next stage after Champions League draw

The expected draw for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League concluded with very interesting encounters. Six European giants will battle in three key games.

Current champions AC Milan from Italy will play against English premier league leaders Arsenal. Last season's finalists Liverpool will test Italian Series A side Inter-Milan. And Spanish leaders Real Madrid will receive challenges from another Italian team AS Roma.

In other clashes, Manchester United will face Olympique Lyon, Barcelona will take on Celtic. Schalke will combat Portuguese Porto, Olympiakos will fight against powerful Chelsea. And Sevilla will do battle with Fenerbahce from Turkey.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Eto'o returns

Barcelona rounded off the Champions League group stage with a comfortable 3 -1 win over German team Stuttgart in Camp Nou, as Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o scored his first goal of the season.

Barça's coach Frank Rijkaard was watching from the stands as he was suspended and he will not have been happy with the start his team made as Antonio da Silva netted after just three minutes for the visitors.

And just as they had to against Deportivo at the weekend, Barça had to battle back and they did so as mexican Giovani Dos Santos levelled in the first half, before Eto'o and Ronaldinho scored after the break.

It's important to mention that Xavi was set to be rested, but after Deco was unfit to play the Barça midfielder was named in the starting line-up alongside Eidur Gudjohnsen with Andrés Iniesta on the bench.

Rookie star Bojan Krkic was also expected to start, but Ronaldinho was given more time to rediscover his level up front with Giovani and Eto'o, while Albert Jorquera replaced Víctor Valdés in goal.

Despite those changes, Barcelona will not have been expecting to start like they did as they were hit with a sucker punch before having time to settle.

Gaby Milito tripped Ewerthon on the edge of the are in the third minute and Da Silva lifted a superb free-kick over the wall the clipped the underside of the crossbar and flew into the net.

Moments later Samuel Eto'o had the chance to draw Barça level when he received a weak pass in front of goal, but his first touch allowed the keeper time to approach and block his shot.

What's more, Ronaldinho Gaucho and Rafael Márquez then went close before Gudjohnsen first supplied Xavi, whose shot was kept out by Raphael Schäfer and the Icelandic international then clipped the rebound to Giovani, whose drive was tipped wide for a corner.

And with nine minutes remaining the pressure from Barça finally told as Ronaldinho won possession off Boka in the left corner and his cross was met by Giovani in front of goal.

The Mexican revelation wheeled away to celebrate and while replays were inconclusive, Schäfer was adamant that the ball had clipped the scorer's arm.

After 12 minutes of the second part, Barcelona took the lead for the first time when Xavi set off from the halfway line before feeding Eto'o and the Cameroonian took one touch before rifling his shot into the far corner of the net.

The frontman's delight was obvious and he raced to the bench to hug the coach that had helped him throughout his recuperation from his long-term knee injury.

Veteran Yildiray Bastürk then created space for himself, but his shot did not match the run as the ball flew wide and with Barcelona's next meaningful attack they wrapped up the points.

Iniesta had been on five minutes when he laid the ball down the left for Sylvinho and the Brazilian slid a low cross into the area where Ronaldinho Gaucho met it on the run and steered in number three from six yards out.

And shortly before Ewerthon had seen his fizzing shot from 25 yards cannon back off Jorquera's crossbar.

Liverpool had a fest at Marsella

Football is ironic, just like life. Some months ago, when Liverpool was at a bad moment, it was shocked by Marseille's cheek in sneaking an historic 1-0 triumph at Anfield. Tuesday was pay-back, big time. Wearing black instead of its familiar red, running hot in the chilly Mistral wind, Liverpool crushed Marseille, 4-0, in the French team's own pitch.

And it might have been twice that score had Gerrard, Torres and company not had it in mind that the weekend brings another definitive encounter, at home to Manchester United.

"I must admit that it was almost the perfect night," said Rafael Benítez, Liverpool's coach. "Everybody knows Gerrard and Torres are good, but tonight everyone showed character and commitment. As I say, almost perfect because always you can improve something."

In fact, the coach didn't seem surprised, he didn't seem concerned that the weekend brings a rare visit to Anfield of his American bosses, who are supposedly gunning for a showdown after the boss had insinuated that they were absentee landlords who have failed to grasp the need to buy when Europe's transfer window opens in midseason.

"I'm just not thinking about money to buy fresh footballers", Benítez answered his questioners in Marseille. "I'm thinking, job done here, now I'm looking to play Manchester United. Nothing else."

We can say thtLiverpool's resurgence in Europe this season has been as remarkable as the great escape in Istanbul in 2005 when, three goals down at halftime in the final against AC Milan, the Reds recovered to draw 3-3 and win the Champions League trophy on a penalty shootout.

Captain Steven Gerrard had led that comeback, as he led Liverpool's turnaround this season. After three games against Besiktas, Porto and Marseille, Liverpool floundered with but a single point and stared eviction from the tournament in the face.

The next three, against the same opponents, yielded 16 goals to Liverpool, just one in reprisal, and in the nick of time qualification for the knockout phase.

It's important to mention that four other clubs progressed to the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday. Real Madrid and Porto did so easily; Schalke squeezed out Rosenborg to become the only German club still standing in the tournament; and Olympiakos qualified for the first time in nine years.

"In fact, the most rewarding feeling is that our fans are on the streets celebrating our qualification," Panagiotis Lemonis, the Olympiakos coach, said after his team's comprehensive 3-0 home victory over Werder Bremen. "This is one of the most important nights in the history of Olympiakos, not because of the result, but because of the way my players went for the triumph when a draw was enough."

Friday, November 23, 2007

AS Roma to miss Totti in their next Champions League match

Roma star Francesco Totti is a major doubt for his team's visit to FC Dynamo Kyiv next Tuesday after suffering a recurrence of the foot problem that has sidelined him for the last month.

Indeed, Totti lasted just 15 minutes of his return to first-team training yesterday before taking a knock on the same foot he had injured in the 2-1 triumph over Sporting Clube de Portugal on 23 October. Although x-rays after the initial injury showed no fractures in his right foot, the player was in too much pain to train today and will definitely stay out of Saturday's Serie A game at Genoa.

"This morning Francesco arrived with the intention of training but he felt pain as soon as he put on his boot, so did not train at all and will not play against Genoa," Roma coach Luciano Spalletti admitted. "I don't know when he will be able to play." It appears highly unlikely that Totti, 31, will be available for the Group F game in Kiev, where Roma can secure their place in the knockout rounds.

What's more, midfielders Taddei and Alberto Aquilani are also absent from the squad despite reports earlier in the week that they were ready to return following respective calf and thigh injuries. "We will not take any risks" Spalletti stated.

Yannick Djaló to miss match against Manchester United

Bad news for Sporting Clube of Portugal. Their main striker Yannick Djaló is unlikely to feature against Manchester United FC in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday after pulling a muscle in his right thigh in a Portugal Under-21 clash.

According to the doctors, the 21-year-old, who has appeared in all four of Sporting's Group F matches so far, missed Portugal's 1-1 draw with England on Tuesday in UEFA European Championship qualifying and has not recovered in time for Saturday's Liga game at Leixões SC. "He's undergoing treatment and conditioning training," the club announced. "We expect him to resume training next week."

Furthermore, Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojković will also miss the trip to Leixões and is not expected to figure at Old Trafford. On a more positive note, influential midfielder Leandro Romagnoli should overcome a back injury to play this week. Coach Paulo Bento has called up 17-year-old Paraguayan frontman Luís Paez for the first time as cover. Sporting are third in Group F, three points behind second-placed AS Roma in the race for the knockout rounds of the Champions League.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Schalke 04's Kuranyi to miss clash against Chelsea FC

FC Schalke 04 most important frontman, Kevin Kuranyi, might miss Tuesday's UEFA Champions League visit of Chelsea FC due a thigh strain. In the other side, the British team will travel without Paulo Ferreira after the full-back was ruled out for six weeks with an ankle injury.

Indeed, Kuranyi took a knock during Friday night’s 1-0 defeat at FC Energie Cottbus and was replaced after 65 minutes. "He pulled the muscle in his thigh. It might even be torn," said Schalke boss Mirko Slomka. Ferreira, meanwhile, strained ankle ligaments during a League Cup victory on Wednesday and did not feature in today's 2-0 victory at Wigan Athletic FC. Manager Avram Grant expressed: "I'm sure Paulo Ferreira is not available and will be out for five to six weeks. We are short; however, we have a big squad and we have good footballers to replace him."

Dynamo Kyiv coach to miss game against Manchester Utd. due to heart problems

According to official medical reports, FC Dynamo Kyiv coach, József Szabó, is suffering from heart problems. The team will be led by assistant coach Oleh Luzhny for their UEFA Champions League trip to Manchester United FC on Wednesday.

As we know, Szabó only began his fourth spell as Dynamo coach on 21 September after Anatoliy Demyanenko stepped down in the wake of the Matchday 1 defeat by AS Roma. Since then the Ukrainian champions have also lost to Sporting Clube de Portugal and Manchester United in Group F. DEspite that, Szabó will not lead his team at Old Trafford and has been sent on leave.

Dynamo Kyiv officially said: "Szabó is temporarily unable to work due to ischemic heart disease, so his assistant Luzhny will prepare the team for the forthcoming UEFA Champions League and Ukrainian league games." A 39-year-old former Ukrainian international, Luzhny is no stranger to England, having played for Arsenal FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC in a long career which also brought one Soviet and seven Ukrainian titles with Dynamo. It's also important to remember that he captained Ukraine a record 39 times and coached Latvia's FK Venta in 2005 before joining Dynamo's staff just one year later.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Daniele De Rossi wants the Champions League crown for Roma

Italian Roma footballer Daniele De Rossi admits that, while the scudetto is in his sights, it's Europe that holds the most allure for the young midfielder...

Indeed, Daniele De Rossi is determined to lift silverware with Roma this season, and is particularly enamoured with the prospect of a Champions League win.

He told the press, "Of course, my dream has always been to win both the Scudetto and the UEFA Champions League as a Roma player.

"Yes, I've love to lift the league trophy, but the Champions League is just that - the Champions League - and Roma has never in its history won that competition. I'd say that this would be a more historical event for us to complete."

The 24 year old, who earlier this summer announced his intention to stay at Roma for his entire career, only made his first pro appearance for the team after they won the Scudetto in 2001, yet remains focused on winning the Champions League first.

However, the World Cup winner knows that Roma, should they carry on their great start to the campaign, can do great things domestically, too.

"This year, Inter won't end up 17 or 20 points ahead of us," he said.

"I think that we play more beautiful football than them as a team; they prefer to focus on their individuals.

Amongst Roma's Champions League opponents this year is Manchester United, the side that crushed his club 7-1 at Old Trafford last season.

"Let's not speak of revenge," De Rossi claims. "But we want to prove ourselves at Old Trafford and not collapse like last time."

Ford offers Champions League tickets as part of their campaign

Automobile manufacturer Ford, the only remaining founding partner of the UEFA Champions League, are offering football fans an unique opportunity to watch top quality European football.

Indeed, the company is launching a marketing campaign to encourage football fans to "Feel the Difference", a move to offer people the chance to be at the UEFA Champions League, Europe's premier club competition.

They will provide supporters with three sets of three hospitality tickets, including pre and post match buffet and bar, as well as a complimentary programme, to Liverpool FC vs. Olympique de Marseille, Celtic FC vs. AC Milan and Manchester United FC vs. AS Roma.

It's important to remember that Ford has sponsored and supported the UEFA Champions League since its inception in 1992. Through a number of initiatives, Ford want football fans everywhere to 'Feel the difference', providing a once in a lifetime chance to enjoy the most important club cup.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

See you in Athens: Liverpool win the semifinal over Chelsea

Anfield was the scenario for a really intense game. and Liverpool was the team that won the ticket to Athens. The Reds beat Chelsea in the penalty shootout, right after a 1-0 victory that tied the leg. Dirk Kuyt scored the crucial shot for Liverpool to clinch the 4-1 victory on penalties while Arjen Robben and Geremi failed in their bid for Mourinho's side.

In fact, the game began with much excitement. Referee González whistled up for nine fouls in the first 13 minutes -- Liverpool 5 Chelsea 4, but it was Liverpool who grabbed the first real chance in the game when Agger scored in the 22nd minute. There weren’t too many chances for the rest of the match. Powerful striker Peter Crouch's header in the 55th minute was saved by Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Cech and Dirk Kuyt's heading against the Chelsea crossbar in the 59th minute saved yet again by keeper Cech.

And Chelsea almost scored just before the break when Essien almost diverted a Drogba header in the 32 minute, but it was not to be. Neither squad could force the elusive goal in the normal time adding to the premium of the 30 minutes of overtime. It's fair to say that Liverpool came the closest, but it all eventually boiled down to the penalty shootout.

Dutch footballer Zenden scored the first, Robben missed for the blues but Alonso scored. Finally, Lampard was the sole success for Chelsea FC and Kuyt's final effort put Chelsea out the tournament while Liverpool head to the finals where they will meet either Italian powerhouse AC Milan or English favorites Manchester United on May 23 in Athens. The best part of the Champions League has just begun.

AC Milan fans can be important in the semifinal against Manchester United

Italian hope. AC Milan players are convinced that the San Siro crowd can roar them to the Champions League final as they look to overturn a 3-2 defeat against Manchester United here tonight.

Indeed, ManU edged the first leg of a pulsating semi-final at Old Trafford, but Milan's two away goals, both scored by Brazilian talent Kaka, means a 1-0 win will be enough for the Italian team to reach the Athens final on May 23.

Milan's talented player midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, who has been passed fit to play after recovering from the foot injury he suffered in the first leg, is counting on the home support to be their 12th player.

"It's fantastic to know that our fans are always there for us and they always cheer us on," said the 29-year-old Italian World Cup winner.

"This time it's special though, as they have to give us an incredible hand. We will give our all, but they have to take us even further."

Also Dutch player Clarence Seedorf, Gattuso's midfield partner, believes the Milan crowd will not let them down: "The supporters are even more passionate than we are".

However, Milan captain Paolo Maldini is battling to be fit after aggravating the knee injury at Old Trafford which forced him to come off at half time.

The Italian boss Carlo Ancelotti has hinted he will drop striker Alberto Gilardino, anonymous in the first leg, in favour of veteran striker Filippo Inzaghi.

"in fact, Gilardino has only scored one goal in the Champions League and that highlights the difference between that competition and the league," Ancelotti admitted.

"I think there's more pressure on strikers to score in the Champions League, and Gilardino is not experienced enough yet to cope with that."

It's very important to notice that Manchester United come into the match on a real high after moving five points clear of Chelsea at the top of the Premiership on Saturday with just three games to go, and having reached the English FA Cup final.

"Indeed, we are in a magnificent situation and we go to the San Siro with our morale sky high," said the popular Alex Ferguson after his side fought back from 2-0 down at Everton to win 4-2 on Saturday.

"We have to think of the team, and Paul Scholes has to make sure he doesn't get booked, that's without question," Ferguson explained. "The advice we gave him in the first leg was not to slide in and make tackles because that's where he gets all his bookings.

"In Europe, they just don't accept it, sliding in. So if he stays on his feet and tackles properly there will be no problem."

Furthermore, Alex Ferguson accepts his injury-ridden defence will struggle to deny Milan in their own stadium, but he has backed his own team to score at least once.

"I really don't agree with the view that it is vital we don't go over there and concede," he said. "I wouldn't say we are favourites, but I think we have given ourselves a great chance. A goal lead is a very good start in European football, and I think there will be good counter-attack possibilities in our squad".

We must remember that AC Milan are aiming to reach their 10th Champions League final and the Red Devils their third.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Valencia and Roma get good results in the Champions League

We saw very exciting games in the first leg of the quarterfinals in Champions League. And many favorites started to make to choose their destiny, like Liverpool or Bayern Munich. In the other hand,Manchester United fell on the road to Roma, but picked up a valuable road goal. Meanwhile Chelsea FC could only manage a 1-1draw at Stamford Bridge with visiting Valencia from Spain.

AS Roma 2 - Manchester United FC 1

Roma took care of business at home on Wednesday night beating Manchester United 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Rodrigo Taddei scored just before the break and Mirko Vucinic nabbed the match winner for the Italians. The two Roma goals surrounded a 60th minute strike by Wayne Rooney that gave United a very precious away goal. The Red Devils return to Old Trafford for the return leg, but will be without the services of Paul Scholes, who was red carded in the first half of the game.

Chelsea FC 1 - Valencia FC 1

Mourinho's side is faced with the daunting task of traveling to Spain in need of a result following their draw with Valencia at Stamford Bridge. The Blues narrowly avoided a disastrous result as Didier Drogba scored in the second half to pull Chelsea level. David Silva scored for the visitors. Chelsea is still alive to win an unprecedented quadruple this season, but hopes are fading of achieving that duty. Wednesday's result will make their road that much tougher to tread.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Liverpool eliminate Barcelona and lead the English Revolution

The super favorite Barcelona got a worthless 1-0 triumph at Anfield on Tuesday. Despite their effort, Liverpool qualified for the Champions League quarterfinals on away goals after aggregating it 2-2.

And in another interesting match, the 2004 winners Porto also bowed out after Chelsea made a successful comeback to win 2-1 at Stamfor Bridge for a 3-2 aggregate through.

In fact, the Blues' win made there an unprecedented four teams from the Premier League in the Champions League last eight.

Italian side AS Roma and Spanish powerhouse Valencia also advanced when a 2-0 win from the former team inflicted a first home defeat in 19 Champions League games on Olympique Lyon and the latter tied Inter Milan 0-0 after their first leg 2-2 draw.

It's important to say that Anfield has been the scene of some memorable European nights over the years and those there on Tuesday will remember Liverpool's latest adventure for many years - despite the match ending in defeat.

We can say that Liverpool went out looking to kill the tie from the start and played a first half of 10 shots on goal to the Catalan team's one.

Rijkaard team looked sluggish all night, personified in Ronaldinho who hit the post when through on goal after 53 minutes, before substitute Eidur Gudjohnsen scored the only goal in 75 minutes.

And the remaining four second-leg matches take place on Wednesday when Manchester United and Arsenal FC will be seeking to make it four through from one country for the first time in the Champions League History.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Eto'o is back to lift Barcelona's chances in the Champions League

African star Samuel Eto'o has returned to full training for FC Barcelona ahead of this month's encounter with English club Liverpool in the Champions League.

Indeed, the Cameroon frontman missed the last four months after damaging knee ligaments against Werder Bremen.

As we know, Eto'o returned to training yesterday and is set to make his long-awaited return in the league game against Racing Santander on February 11th.

In fact, the popular player is having a lighter workload than his team-mates but club physios are delighted with his progress.

According to the doctors, he is expected to start on February 21st in the first leg of the knout stages against the Reds in the Nou Camp.

It's good to mention that Eto'o has bagged 60 goals in 89 games for the European champions since joining from Real Mallorca in 2004.

Actually, the Catalan team have continued their march towards a third straight title despite Eto'o's absence and lead second-placed Sevilla by four points.

Barcelona might also unleash striker Lionel Messi against Santander in a race against time to reach match fitness for the game with Liverpool.

The talented Argentine broke his metatarsal in November and returned to Spain today after working on his recovery in Argentina.

As we all know, Messi's compatriot Javier Saviola has taken his chance for the league champions with five goals last month including a hat-trick in the 3-2 triumph over Alaves.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Milan's Dida confessions

Brazilian keeper Dida has high expectations for the next season. That's why he insists AC Milan are still pushing for a Champions League berth despite their poor Serie A campaign so far.

Indeed, the Italian team is currently 12th in the Italian top flight, having started the season with an eight-point deduction in the wake of the match-fixing scandal that rocked Serie A earlier this season.

Despite those grim facts, run of seven league games without defeat, including back-to-back wins prior to the winter break, has seen AC Milan move to within just six points of fourth-placed Catania.

Maybe that is the reason why Dida told Brazilian television network: "Obviously, we had an irregular start to the league, but we will improve our performance in 2007.

"I'm sure that our main objective this season is to qualify for the Champions League."

IT's also important to say that the goalkeeper, currently sidelined with a knee injury, also admitted he was keen to return to the national team despite announcing his international retirement following Brazil's failure to retain the World Cup in Germany.

"In fact, I am working to fulfil the objective of returning to the Brazilian team," he admitted.