Great Night For London Clubs In Champions League

The Clock End of the Arsenal Stadium, Highbury...
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Arsenal & Chelsea both had great opening wins in their Champions League groups with Arsenal hitting Braga for six and Chelsea’s winning 4-1 away to MSK Zilina.

Both looked very impressive and although they both have sterner tasks ahead this will have done their confidence no harm at all. Of their opponents MSK Zilina will have the most cause for hope having played pretty well despite the scoreline and they did manage to create more chances and had more corners. However class told and chances are no good if you cant score. They might fare a little better against the lesser teams in the group and should fight it out with Marseille for 3rd place.

Braga looked quite good in qualifying, beating Celtic and Sevilla, and this season they are 4th in the Portuguese league having narrowly lost 3-2 away to leaders Porto at the weekend. They are poor travelers however and it will be difficult to pick themselves up after this mauling.

Overall it has been a tough start for the six teams new to the Champions League this season, with only Tottenham & FC Twente managing to pick up points. So far the tally is

Played 6 Won 0 drew 2 lost 4 Goals for 5 Goals against 20. Realistically only Tottenham will fancy their chances at qualifying from the group of Six.

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Arsenal & Chelsea Both Coasting at Half Time In Champions League

Both Arsenal & Chelsea are 3-0 up at half time admittedly against teams new to the Champions League Group Stages. Both look very comfortable and if they continue to press they will both add to their tally’s in the second half.

Chelsea lead in MSK Zilina through goals from Essien & Anelka (2) while Arsenal who are at home to Braga have Fabregas (pen), Arshavin & Chamakh to thank. Not a British scorer in sight for either English club.

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Rangers Cling On For Draw At Old Trafford

This much vaunted battle between the Scottish Champions Rangers and Premier League runners up Manchester United failed to live up to its billing ending in a rather forgettable 0-0 draw.

Rangers rarely looked threatening, however they did defend resolutely, restricting Man Utd to a few long range shots and half chances. This was arguably Rangers toughest game and although it will take a lot of luck for them to advance from this group, they have at least managed a point more than they did in last seasons campaign. If they can recapture the form and good fortune they had in 2008 they could yet have a say in this group.

Manchester United are not firing on all cylinders this year and although this was a somewhat understrength squad they would have expected better. The injury to Antonio Valencia will come as a blow, and this draw could end up costing them the group. Their next game is in Spain against Valencia, while Rangers will hope to build on this result against Group Stages New Boys Bursaspor.

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Tottenham & FC Twente Make Impresive Champions League Debuts

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Tottenham Hotspurs and Dutch champions FC Twente both had credible results in their Champions League Group stage debuts last night. Tottenham raced into a 2 goal lead in Germany against Werder Bremen, however they couldn’t hold out and ended up being pegged back to 2-2. Overall Werder Bremen cheered on by a 40,000 crowd did create enough chances to win the game and Spurs will be very pleased to have effectively taken the edge against their rival in what looks like being a pretty competitive group.

The other debutant FC Twente also took the lead at home to holders Inter Milan before they were also pegged back to 2-2. This was another impressive performance and the forthcoming between these two, even at this early stage looks like being highly significant in the battle to qualify for the next stages.

Both the other debutant teams found life a bit harder with Turkish champions Bursaspor losing 4-0 at home to Valencia, and Hapoel Tel-Aviv faring little better in a 2-0 defeat against Benfica.Neither look likely to progress in the competition.

Tonight the remaining two teams also have pretty tough tasks with FC Braga facing Arsenal and MSK Zilina taking on Chelsea. It will be a major shock if any of this years group stage “new boys” manage to kick off with a win now.

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Tottenham make Champions League Group Stage Debut

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Tottenham Hotspur are one of 6 clubs making their Champions League Group stage debut this week and they look the most likely to have a chance of progressing to the latter stages, despite not having the easiest of groups.

They will hopefully welcome back Luka Modric for tonight’s match with Werder Bremen and although they will be without Jermain Defoe and Michael Dawson they will fancy their chances of making a winning start. Bremen will be without Per Mertesacker and have other injury worries, so Spurs will not have a better chance of picking up an away win than in this one.

The other teams making their Champions League Group Stage Debuts are:

F.C Braga

Bursaspor

Hapoel Tel-Aviv

MSK Zilina

FC Twente

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Man Utd Recall Rooney for Rangers Clash

Celtic v Manchester United
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After leaving him out against Everton, Manchester United have recalled Wayne Rooney for their Champions League Group C opener against Rangers on Tuesday. Rio Ferdinand looks set to return after injury and United will be at pretty much full strength against the Scottish Champions in what is being billed as the Battle of Britain.

Rangers have doubts about defender Steven Whittaker and Kirk Broadfoot and will hope both recover for what looks likely to be a difficult tie.

Rangers didn’t manage a win in their six group games last season and have failed to win any of their last 10 Champions League games. The odds don’t favour them making it 11th time lucky however with passions running high anything can happen.

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Champions League Draw Throws Up Some Tough Groups

Although there are no easy games at this level of the Champions League some of the seeded teams will be decidedly happier than others with the way the draw panned out.  Of the five remaining British representatives Manchester United and Chelsea will be quietly confident of progressing as group winners, while Arsenal barring a major form collapse should at least qualify. Sadly the same cant be said for both Spurs and Glasgow Rangers, both of whom would have been hoping for a kinder draw.

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Great Wins For Braga and Werder Bremen in Champions League

Portugal’s FC Braga who knocked Celtic out in the previous round had an even better win knocking out Spain’s Sevilla 5-3 on aggregate. The game in Sevilla was a thriller finishing 4-3, with four of the goals coming in a frantic last 10 minutes. Braga looked very good and the team is full of pace especially up front. They could give a few teams an unpleasant surprise when they enter the group stages of the Champions League.

Werder Bremen looked to be down and out against Sampdoria when Antonio Cassano put the Italians 3-0 up i the 85th minute, however Nils Rosenberg snatched a 90th minute goal to send the game into extra time and the Germans assured themselves of a group stage place thanks to Claudio Pizarro’s strike which made the aggregate scores 5-4.

The prize for the most acrimonious team goes to Zenith St Petersburg who had 6 players booked and 2 sent off in a bad tempered 2-0 defeat in Auxerre. They crashed out 2-1 on aggregate and will have a few suspensions when they enter the Europa League Group Stages.

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Some Interesting Champions League Groups Possible

The draw for the Champions League group stages takes place today, and there are some big name teams in the lower tier pots which could make for some very interesting groups. The English clubs will not be drawn to play each other until the Quarter Final stages so they will avoid each other but Glasgow Rangers who are in Pot Three could face one of them.

As would be expected there are no easy teams at this stage, however no group will be pleased to see FC Twente or Auxerre or Partizan Belgrade as their supposed whipping boy.  The British clubs in Pot 3 will be hoping they avoid falling into Real Madrid or Benfica’s group, while Tottenham, Braga & Spartak Moscow look good enough to grab a qualifying spot in the right group. Scottish Champions Rangers will have their work cut out whichever group they end up in, however they are hard to beat at home and with a very kind draw and a bit of good fortune they to could pose a threat to the top seeds.

The draw is scheduled for 16.30 hours today.

The Pots For The Champions League draw:

Pot one: Inter Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Lyon.

Pot two: Werder Bremen, Real Madrid, Roma, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica, Valencia, Marseille, Panathinaikos.

Pot three: Tottenham, Rangers, Ajax, Schalke, Basle, Braga, FC Copenhagen, Spartak Moscow.

Pot four: Hapoel Tel Aviv, FC Twente, Rubin Kazan, Auxerre, CFR Cluj, Partizan Belgrade, MSK Zilina, Bursaspor.

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Crouch Hat Trick Does The Job For Spurs In Champions League

Jermain Defoe
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Having been 3-0 down at one stage Tottenham Hotspurs comfortably negotiated the Champions League knock out stages to earn their first ever group stage appearance.

Trailing 3-2 from the 1st leg, a game in which Young Boys really should have been out of site in by half time, Tottenham knowing what was needed set about the task well and it was no surprise when Crouch leveled the aggregate scores after 5 minutes.  Then when Defoe added a second with the help of a blatant hand ball you knew it was going to be spurs night. Peter Crouch put the tie beyond their Swiss opponents with a third early in the second half and then duly completed his hat trick from the penalty spot.

Spurs will now join the group stages in the third tier ensuring they don’t get an easy ride to the next stages. Still with over £11m assured now the pressure is off to a degree. They will know their fate today when the groups are drawn and although they cant meet any of the other English clubs at this stage they could end up with Inter Milan, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. Real Madrid are in pot two so the could also end up with them in what would be the competitions group of death.

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