It’s Champions League time again this week, with Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea all in action. All eyes on will be on Liverpool tonight who are lagging behind the other English clubs having picked up just one win in their first two matches. Will the pressure continue to build for Rafa Benitez who welcomes back captain Steven Gerrard, or can he buy himself some breathing space ahead of this weekend’s visit of Man Utd.
Liverpool host French club Lyon tonight in a bid to kick-start their European campaign and provide their fans with something to celebrate after falling to three consecutive defeats in all competitions. The importance of the return of captain Steven Gerrard for Liverpool cannot be underestimated and I’m sure that there won’t be any beach balls on the pitch tonight. Lyon are arguably the strongest of Liverpool’s opponents in Group E and record signing Lisandro Lopez will pose problems for their creaking defence. The diminutive Argentinean striker has been receiving rave reviews from the French media and we will get a chance to see what he is made of this evening. Many Liverpool fans will be hoping that former Newcastle flop Jean-Alain Boumsong will recover from injury, and with him in their squad, how good can Lyon really be?
Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea will all be looking to extend their 100% records in this year’s competition and put themselves into a position to cruise into the next round. Arsene Wenger will be renewing his battle with AZ Alkmar manager Ronald Koeman, hoping to get the better of the Dutch legend this time round. Arsenal fans will have bad memories of their 2007 Champions League exit to PSV who were managed at the time by Koeman, but they will go into the match full of confidence and playing the sort of football everyone has come to expect from them. The trip may not be as easy as some fans expect, with AZ having lost just once at home in 34 European ties, but Arsenal should have enough quality to triumph.
Man Utd have the unique challenge of playing on an artificial pitch on Wednesday in what looks like the toughest of the ties for the English teams. A trip to Russia to face CSKA Moscow could even result in the Premier League champions coming unstuck in what are sure to be difficult conditions. Sir Alex Ferguson may be happy with the pitch at the moment, but don’t be surprised to see those sentiments change if they fall to a defeat. Wayne Rooney is one of five players not travelling as they rest players ahead of their massive trip to Anfield on Sunday. If there is a reversal of fortunes for Man Utd and Liverpool this week, this weekend’s fixture will become even more hotly anticipated.
Chelsea will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday by winning at home to Atletico Madrid. Their defensive frailties at set pieces will be a worry for manager Carlo Ancelotti, with defender Ricardo Carvalho at the centre of most of the criticism, but the Italian looks set to keep faith with the current team. After being less than convincing in their last European outing against Apoel Nicosia they will fancy their chances against an Atletico side that is yet to score in the competition and is also struggling in La Liga. But former Premier League stars Diego Forlan and Jose Antonio Reyes will be looking to make their mark for a team that have enough skill to cause Chelsea plenty of problems.
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