Arsenal Win A Beautiful Game

When two of the best footballing sides in the World meet then it can either be a cancel out stalemate or a game to remember, and on this occasion for the majority of the 59,927 spectators it was the latter, as Arsenal recorded their first ever win over Barcelona.

Thankfully Arsenal facing a lavishly gifted Barcalona team decided to avoid the temptation to make the game physical and instead played their trademark passing game (probably aware of the result when Holland adopted such tactics against Spain in the World Cup Final) and the result was an open and highly entertaining game. The gamble looked to have back fired on the Gunners mud way through the first half when Villa opened the scoring, and even the most biased of Arsenal fan would have to agree that the Catalonian side were by far the better team going into the break.

Arsenal showed a bit more in the second half and Van Persie gave Barcelona a warning shot when he tested their goalie with a nice drive from the edge of the area. However Barcelona were still the better team and Messi should have extended Barcelona’s lead in the 67th minute but untypically he shot into the side netting when he would normally have scored.

This proved to be an expensive miss as in the 78th Minute Van Persie finally got Arsenal on the score sheet thanks to a bit of slightly sloppy goalkeeping by Valdes who stood statuesque as Van Persie’s shot beat him at his near post. To be fair he was expecting the cross, and the shot was struck perfectly, however it has to go down as a lucky break and the Gunners fully capitalised on this when Arshavin grabbed the winner 5 minutes latter following the nights best move as Arsenal broke out of defense with some panic free passing cumulating in Samir Nasri crossing for Arshavin to sweetly curl the ball home.

Barcelona then stepped up the pressure and created and had the chance to equalise, however Arsenal stood firm to take a famous victory and a narrow 2-1 lead to the Nou Camp in the second leg.

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Champions League rolling blog

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Late Goal Grabs Champions League Win For Tottenham

A late Peter Crouch goal gained Tottenham one of their most memorable wins in recent history last night, as they beat Italian Giants AC Milan 1-0 at the San Siro. This sets Spurs up nicely for the second leg on 9th March and they are now favourites to progress to the last eight in their first Champions League season.

The match was marred by bad tempered incidents and Gennaro Gattuso was the worst offender clashing on the sidelines with Joe Jordan on more than one occasion. At the end of the game he appeared to headbutt the Spurs assistant manager and he will likely face some sanctions for his actions.

On the pitch Milan looed a bit lethargic for much of the first half and although they came into the game more in the second half Tottenham were good value for their win, secured in the 80th minute when Arron Lennon’s run and cross was neatly slotted home by Peter Crouch. This led to a storming finish and AC  Milan had a late equaliser disallowed when Ibrahimovic appeared to push Michael Dawson before scoring.

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Tottenham To Face AC Milan Without Key Players

Tottenham face AC Milan in the Champions League tonight without several key players including Influential Welshman Gareth Bale, who has been one of the stars of the Champions League so far this season.

Alos missing will be long-term absentees Tom Huddlestone, Ledley King and Younes Kaboul, and Peter Crouch &  Luka Modric are both doubtful.  Jermaine Jenas will also miss the match due to suspension.

Some good news is that Rafael van der Vaart will probably be fit and on the other side AC Milan will not be able to field January signings Antonio Cassano, Mark van Bommel and Urby Emanuelson.  Milan will be missing midfield duo Andrea Pirlo and Massimo Ambrosini.

So no side will really benefit from the others misfortune injury wise and there is sufficient talent available to make this a game to watch. This is a difficult game for Spurs and they will be very pleased to leave the San Siro with a narrow one goal defeat. A repeat of the 4-3 scorline against Inter on their last visit to Italy would set up a great night at White Hart Lane on the 9th March.

The nights other tie is between Valencia & Schalke 04 and given the German side are struggling at present its hard to see them getting anything from their trip to Spain.

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Champions League resumes with tasty last-16 games

LONDON (AP)—The Champions League resumes this week at the last-16 stage, with Arsenal and Barcelona ready to put on a show for the football purists and AC Milan in impressive shape ahead of the visit of injury-hit Tottenham.

Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium will play host to arguably the two most easy-on-the-eye teams in European football, in a rematch of last season’s quarterfinal that Barcelona won 6-3 on aggregate.

The Spanish giants, who have won the competition three times, are among the favorites to land the trophy again and will look to Lionel Messi, the team’s leading scorer domestically and in Europe, to spark their potent attack on Wednesday.

“We play certainly the best team in the world next so it is important to go in strong psychologically,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said after a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton on Saturday that kept his team second in the Premier League behind Manchester United.

Tottenham is set to be without star winger Gareth Bale and playmaker Rafael van der Vaart on Tuesday when it returns to the San Siro, where the London side has already visited in this season’s competition.

On that occasion, Spurs lost 4-3 to Inter Milan in a group match despite a stunning second-half hat trick by Bale, who has been sidelined recently with a back injury.

Milan, a seven-time European champion, consolidated its lead in the Italian league with a 4-0 thrashing of Parma at the weekend and is unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions.

“We will need courage, concentration and quality to get through,” veteran Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf said. “This result (against Parma) means we are well prepared.”

Valencia hosts Schalke and Shakhtar Donetsk visits Roma in this week’s other first legs, with the other four two-legged series starting next week.

Arsenal was taught a lesson by Barca last season. Lucky to escape with a 2-2 draw from a thrilling first leg at home, the Gunners were smashed 4-1 in the return match—with Messi scoring all four goals in a sensational individual performance.

The Argentina playmaker has already scored six times in this season’s competition, as well as 24 goals in the Spanish league.

“When you play a team like Barcelona, you need all 11 to be at their best,” said Wenger, whose side lost 2-1 to the Catalans in the 2006 Champions League final.

“For us it is important we play with belief. We are not favorites in this game but I think we can do it.”

Barcelona comes into the game off a 1-1 draw at Sporting Gijon, a result that ended the team’s record of consecutive league wins at 16.

The champions had previously outscored their opponents 60-6 through the historic run. They had also won all their away games this season.

“Now we can see the merit of 16 consecutive wins,” coach Pep Guardiola said. “Now we have to recover so we can play well in London.”

Guardiola should have all his regular starters available after resting Spain midfielder Sergio Busquets and France left back Eric Abidal on Saturday. The only question mark is whether captain Carles Puyol recovers from a knee injury in time.

Milan is set to be without injured midfielders Kevin-Prince Boateng, Massimo Ambrosini and Andrea Pirlo against Spurs, so Brazil center back Thiago Silva may play out of position further upfield.

“Playing Thiago Silva in central midfield on Tuesday is a real possibility,” Milan coach Massimo Allegri said.

Spurs have injury problems on their own, with central midfielders Luka Modric and Tom Huddlestone expected to miss out. The probable loss of Bale and Van der Vaart (calf) would hit the side the hardest, however.

Despite the caliber of the opposition, manager Harry Redknapp has faith in his team, which topped its group ahead of Inter on its debut in the competition and is fourth in the Premier League after three victories.

“Milan are a dangerous side. They have got some real quality players. The front three—Robinho, (Alexandre) Pato, (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic—have all got goals in them. They are top-class players,” Redknapp said.

“It will be a big test, but I think we have got a big chance.”

Two-time runner-up Valencia, which is in the Champions League positions in the Spanish league after seven wins in its last eight matches, may be without injured forward Juanma Mata for the first leg against Schalke.

Former Real Madrid striker Raul Gonzalez makes his first return to Spain after his move to Schalke last summer. Raul scored 12 goals against Valencia at the Mestalla stadium when he was with Madrid.

Defenders Philippe Mexes and Nicolas Burdisso are likely to return to Roma’s starting lineup against Ukrainian champion Shakhtar after missing a 2-0 defeat by Napoli on Saturday through suspension.

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Champions League Last 16 Finalised

As expected Shaktar Donesk, Arsenal and Roma secured their Champions League knock out stages last night. Arsenal could only finish second and given they cant meet one of the other English clubs until the Quarter Finals they will now face the prospect of meeting the likes of Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Champions League Round Up Part 1

Wappen of Schalke 04
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We now know Thirteen of the last 16 in this years Champions League who are :

Tottenham Hotspur who qualified a group winners with some very impressive attacking displays. Gareth Bale has come of age in this competition and with a kind draw a Quarter Final place is a distinct possibility.

Inter Milan will be disappointed at finishing runners up and it is clear to see that Rafeal Benitez’s lack of management skills was no flash in the pan at Liverpool as he has taken charge of last seasons Treble winners and managed to make them look pretty ordinary. Anything is possible but on last nights performance its impossible to see them defending their crown, or for Benitez to keep his job for that matter.

Schalke 04 won a fairly weak group B thanks to a good win in Benfica. They have scored a few goals and could pose problems but they could struggle in the last 16 if they don’t get a very kind draw. Still this has been a great achievement for one of Germany’s lesser known clubs; Schalke have not won their domestic title since 1958.

Lyon finished runners up and look like one of the teams every group winner will be hoping to get. They don’t look anywhere near as good as their sides of recent seasons and will probably be focusing on the French League after the knock out stages.

Manchester United cruised through with the minimum of fuss with 4 wins and 2 draws in their 6 games. Nobody will fancy drawing them in the knockout round.

Valencia finished second almost by default given the groups structure. They look sharp and no one will fancy meeting them in the knockouts.

Barcelona as expected qualified with the minimum of fuss drawing a couple of games but overall never really looking extended. They are justifiably one of the favourites and look destined for the last 8 at least.

FC Copenhagen have the honour of becoming the first Danish side to reach the last 16 of the Champions League and showed when holding Barcelona to a 1-1 draw that they are capable of giving anyone a game on their day. Its hard to see them progressing to the last 8 although if they were to draw Schalke 04 or possibly Shaktar then it could be close. Anyone else and they will bow out having probably exceeded their own expectations.

Bayern Munich, last seasons beaten finalists have qualified with a game to spare admittedly from an easy looking group. They will be hoping for one of the weaker second place teams as they attempt to go one better this year.

Chelsea have strolled through their group winning all 5 matches so far and  have racked up an impressive 14-3 goal difference in the process. Tonight’s match against Marseille is somewhat academic give both  have qualified and Chelsea are guaranteed top spot.

Marseille are guaranteed second spot and after a slightly shaky start look quite good. No one will looking forward to facing them in the last 16.

Real Madrid were second seeds and have comfortably qualified from what looked like a group of death. They have made it look kind of easy and the self proclaimed Special One Jose Mourinio could be on his way to the Final again. He could now face his old side Inter Milan in the last 16 which would be quite a spectacle.

AC Milan have also qualified with a game to spare and although they were clearly second best to Real Madrid they cant be written off. Some poor group winner will be unlucky enough to draw them and that could end their campaign. Hopefully it will not be one of the English clubs.

Group H is still wide open although Arsenal & Shakhtar Donetsk should fill the final two places barring an unthinkable set of results. The unlucky team will be FC Braga who have improved as the group went on and with this experience under their belts they could go a long way in the Europa League.

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Tottenham Advance to Champions League Last 16 As Group Winners

Tottenham qualified as group winners last night, an incredible achievement in their first ever Champions League campaign thanks to a 3-3 draw with FC Twente. They were made to work hard for their win by a lively FC Twente side who created plenty of chances, but lacked real quality in front of goal. They will now descend into tyhe Europa League where they will pose a threat, while Tottenham will hopefully get a slightly easier draw in the knockout stages given the group winners are kept apart in the last 16. Having said that there are no easy games in the last 16 and they could end up with London Neighbors Arsenal if results go that way.

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Tottenhan Cruise Through To Last 16 Of Champions League

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Peter Crouch Scorer of The Third Goal

Spurs fans got an early X-mas present last night as their team comfortably qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League,out of what on paper was a tough group. The contest was effectively over by half time thanks to an early goal by Younes Kaboul and then Luka Modric hit the killer goal in first half injury time to leave the admittedly below strength Werder Bremen totally demoralised. Peter Crouch scored Tottenham’s third mud way through the second half and they finished the game in cruise control mode.

They are joined by Inter Milan who scraped a 1-0 win against FC Twente (who will now drop into the Europa League) and if Tottenham can at least match Inter’s result in their final game then Spurs will top the group, theoretically giving them an easier tie in the last 16.

So far the following teams have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League:

Tottenham, Inter Milan, Shalke 04, Lyon, Manchester United, Valencia, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Marseilles, Real Madrid, AC Milan.

The final 4 places are still up for grabs, which will at least ensure some of the final games will be worth watching.

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Marseille Book Champions League Last 16 Place

Marseille booked their last 16 place with another emphatic win and given Chelsea have already won the group the two teams meeting in the final game is now somewhat academic. Marseille’s 3-0 win in Spartak Moscow was impressive and they will be tough opposition in the last 16.

Chelsea secured the group by beating MSK Zilina 2-1 in a somewhat lackluster match. However given they had already clinched top spot it was probably understandable.

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