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Champions League Draw in Full

The draw in full

Group A: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Bordeaux , Maccabi Haifa

Group B: Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Besiktas, Wolfsburg

Group C: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Marseille, FC Zurich

Group D: Chelsea, Porto, Atletico Madrid, Apoel FC

Group E: Liverpool, Lyon, Fiorentina, Debreceni

Group F: Barcelona, Internazionale, Dynamo Kiev, FC Rubin Kazan

Group G: Sevilla, Rangers, VfB Stuttgart, Unirea Uriziceni

Group H: Arsenal, AZ Alkmaar, Olympiakos, Standard Liege

Analysis:

Group A:  Group A will be a very interesting group to watch unfold.  Juventus, Bayern and Bordeaux all have a great chance of reaching the knockout rounds, but it may all come down to how each of them play Maccabi Haifa – the Israeli champions.  In my eyes, whoever drops points to Haifa, doesn’t make it to the next round.

Prediction:

Bayern Munich and Juventus progress

Group B: Manchester United will be disappointed with all the traveling they will be doing, especially to Turkey where the hooligans go mad every time United come to town.  Wolfsburg is also going to be a bigger threat than they’re given credit for, watch for them to nick points in group play.  The Russians will be a stingy opposition and may steal points in the Motherland, but away from home may struggle to find their feet.  Wolfsburg are my dark horse of the tournament.  I don’t think for a second they deserved the fourth pot, but now find themselves with a tall order.  They can push for the knockout round, and their match against CSKA Moscow will make or break their run.

Prediction

Manchester United and Wolfsburg progress

Group C: Group C, along with F, is a “group of death”.  Somehow, Madrid dodged the British bullet (which makes for a more exciting knockout stage!), and they should find themselves in the knockout round before too long.  AC Milan have had a dodgy start to their campaign, and if they don’t start clicking could start dropping points in group play.  Marseille have been a tough nut to crack in years past, and with the addition of Morientes to their attacking play, will give Milan and Madrid a test.

Prediction:

Real Madrid and AC Milan to progress

Group D: The boys from London should have a spot in the knockout round if they keep their heads about them.  The only thing I would worry about is that they’ve been giving up goals early in the EPL and come from behind to win it, and may well do so against more formidable sides in this competition who won’t be so forgiving.  Atletico are always impressive to watch and I don’t see anyone but those two making it past this group.

Prediction:

Chelsea and Atletico Madrid to progress

Group E: Liverpool can’t have too many complaints here, they were grouped with great teams in Lyon and Fiorentina, but, to be honest, they should be able to cope.  The Merseysiders should claim the top spot, but the second one is completely up for grabs.  Fiorentina and Lyon are both squads that have firepower up top (Mutu and Govou) and can work to break down their opponents.  Fiorentina would love to have Melo back in their squad as I have no doubt he’d love to break up the Frenchmen in attack.

Prediction:

Liverpool and Lyon (by a hair!) to progress

Group F: This is it.  The group of death. We have the reigning Spanish and European champions as well as the Italian and Ukrainian league winners.  I’ve had to keep my mouth shut all day so as not to drool all over my desk.  Mourinho vs. Guardiola.  Eto’o vs. Pique.  Ibrahimovic vs. Cordoba.  Chocolate vs. Vanilla.  Coke vs. Pepsi.  Bert vs. Ernie.

Prediction:

It’s not going any other way.  Barcelona on top, Inter taking second.

Group G: My pick (and yours if you have sense) for the tamest group.  Not a lot to gawk at here.  Rangers and Sevilla will probably make the next stage, as I don’t think Stuttgart have enough bite to make any marks here.  Unirea Uriziceni will just be happy to be in the competition, and will love the fact that they have be thrown into this group.

Prediction:

Rangers and Sevilla to progress (in that order)

Group H: Arsenal may have the best of the English teams, and Wenger will be hard pressed to find something to complain about (if you can believe that!).  But remember the torrid time Standard Liege gave Liverpool last season in the qualifying rounds, as they could give group H some trouble.  Gunners aside, this group is fairly balanced.  Each team will fancy their chances at nabbing the last spot into the knockout stages.

Prediction:

Arsenal and Standard Liege to progress


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Transfer News – August 23rd

NEWS OF THE WORLD:

  • Wayne Rooney is to be offered a stunning new contract in line with the biggest earners in the Premier League.
  • Arsenal are ready to open contract talks with Cesc Fabregas to fend off Barcelona.
  • Everton will demand a Premier League probe into their claim that Manchester City tapped up Joleon Lescott.
  • David Gold and David Sullivan will step up their bid to buy West Ham next week.
  • Fulham defender Brede Hangeland will not leave the club in the current transfer window despite the interest shown by Arsenal and Everton.
  • Portsmouth manager Paul Hart plans to offer former Wigan striker Henri Camara a Premier League lifeline.
  • Martin O’Neill is plotting to prise Jermaine Jenas from Tottenham with a £12million bid.

    The Republic of Ireland winger has been targeted by Redknapp.

    The Republic of Ireland winger has been targeted by Redknapp.

  • Wigan are poised to make a £3.5million bid for Bristol City midfielder Marvin Elliott.
  • Harry Redknapp has targeted Celtic stars Aiden McGeady and Scott Brown to bolster his Tottenham squad.
  • Phil Brown could turn to Matty Fryatt to solve Hull’s striker problems.
  • Everton and Blackburn have stepped up their interest in Norway winger Erik Huseklepp.

    STAR ON SUNDAY:

  • Chelsea will smash the British transfer record with a £40million move for Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero.
  • Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou is considering his future, despite being offered a new deal.
  • PSV Eindhoven winger Balazs Dzsudzsak claims Arsenal are preparing an offer for him.
  • Daniel Cousin is facing showdown talks with Phil Brown at Hull.
  • West Ham have asked Livorno to name their price for Italian hitman Alessandro Diamanti.
  • Newcastle have held move talks with the representatives of free agent Peter Lovenkrands.

    SUNDAY PEOPLE:

  • Furious Everton chiefs are to report Manchester City to the Premier League for allegedly tapping up Joleon Lescott.
  • David Beckham’s contract at LA Galaxy has a secret get-out clause, which could see him move to one of Europe’s top leagues.
  • Thailand manager Peter Reid is poised for a shock return to English football – as assistant to Tony Pulis at Stoke.

    The Argentine has long been linked with a move away from Atletico Madrid.

    The Argentine has long been linked with a move away from Atletico Madrid.

  • Chelsea are aiming to spring a major surprise before the transfer window closes – with sources in Spain claiming Sergio Aguero is on his way to Stamford Bridge in a £42million deal.
  • Joe Cole is set to be handed a new four-year contract worth around £90,000 per week.
  • Fulham will stage an ambitious late bid to sign Bordeaux hitman Marouane Chamakh.
  • Stoke boss Tony Pulis is ready to shatter their transfer record with a £12million bid for Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones.
  • West Brom’s wantaway midfielder Borja Valero will complete a deal to Real Mallorca this week.
  • David Moyes will spark a late transfer window buying spree with Russian star Vladimir Bystrov at the top of his shopping list.
  • Harry Redknapp is ready to make a cut-price move for West Ham midfielder Scott Parker.
  • Dietmar Hamann has turned down Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Notts County and will instead move to Portsmouth.

    SUNDAY MIRROR:

  • Dean Ashton is set to announce his shock retirement from football.
  • Everton will ask the FA to investigate their claim that Manchester City made an illegal approach for Joleon Lescott.
  • Rafa Benitez has told Liverpool’s fans they can put their money on him staying at Anfield for the remaining five years of his contract.
  • Arsenal want William Gallas to extend his stay at the Emirates Stadium.
  • Portsmouth are ready to sell Niko Kranjcar if a club will meet their £8million asking price.
    The Spanish mastermind looks set to remain loyal to his Liverpool contract.

    The Spanish mastermind looks set to remain loyal to his Liverpool contract.

    SUNDAY EXPRESS:

  • Everton are going to war with Manchester City after finally agreeing to sell Joleon Lescott for £24million.
  • Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is bidding to end once and for all the rumours that he is ready to walk out of Anfield.


  • Barca Won’t Break Bank Over Cesc
    August 10, 2009, 6:18 AM
    Filed under: la liga | Tags: , , ,

    Barcelona sporting director Txiki Begiristain has admitted the club want to take Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas back to the Nou Camp, but will not pay over the odds.

    Barca have long been linked with their former youth player, and Begiristain identified him as one of the few players capable of improving a team that won a domestic and European treble last season.

    “It depends on how much we want to spend,” he said in Marca. “If we spend a lot of money, it is possible (to bid for Fabregas). We do not know how much it will be yet. We have not asked Arsenal.

    “If the amount is too high, we will not try.”

    The gifted Spaniard is currently enlisted in Arsene Wenger's regime.

    The gifted Spaniard is currently enlisted in Arsene Wenger's regime.

    Barcelona are feeling some pressure to spend from their fans following the spending spree of rivals Real Madrid, who have invested more than £220million on the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Xabi Alonso this summer.

    However, Begiristain does not intend to spend for spending’s sake.

    “We find it difficult to improve what we have and that is the reality,” he said.

    “Improving a team that has won a treble is difficult, and trying to improve dramatically can get you into trouble.

    “Any new player must be compatible with the plans of the coach. Here the views of Pep Guardiola are critical.”

    One possible target for Barca is Shakhtar Donetsk’s Dmytro Chygrynskiy, and Begiristain did not deny he was on the club’s radar.

    “I don’t want to dismiss any of the players we like and will help us improve,” he said. “There are several options.”

    Analysis:  Arsenal will fight tooth and nail to keep the Spaniard, but greener pastures abroad may eventually be their undoing.  Few players in the world will find it hard to turn their head away with Barcelona beckoning.  If Arsenal do lose their talismanic playmaker, Wenger will be hard pressed to find a replacement quickly enough to save his job.  Is Patrick Vieira an option? Possibly, but age is always going to be a factor, and as long as it is, he’ll be a liability for a long term career anywhere.  Either way, it’d be a bitter pill to lose Fabregas.

    Result:  Fabregas will stay in London this season, but if something goes awry or they turn up empty handed, expect the talented Spaniard move elsewhere – either domestic or abroad.



    Young Eases Villains Fears

    Ashley Young has pledged his future to Aston Villa and insisted he still has things he wants to achieve at the club.

    The 24-year-old winger has been linked to Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

    “It’s flattering for me to be linked with such big clubs,” said the 2008/09 Professional Footballers’ Association young player of the year.

    The PFA Young Player of the Year is hot property.

    The PFA Young Player of the Year is hot property.

    “But I’m an Aston Villa player, I’m happy here and I’ve got two and a half years left on my contract.”

    Fellow left-winger Stewart Downing’s arrival from Middlesbrough also led to speculation that Young may be about leave.

    However, Young, who joined Villa from Watford in January 2007, is adamant he has unfinished business with Martin O’Neill’s side.

    “If you look at when I came I set myself a lot of goals,” he added. “I’ve achieved some of them, like getting into the England team, winning player-of-the-month awards and being named the PFA young player of the year.

    “But there are still things that I want to achieve here. The club’s on a high and on it’s way up and hopefully so am I so I’m happy here.”

    Analysis:  It’s good to see that there’s still loyalty left in the world of football.  Terry being the most recent addition to that group of players.  Young is capable of so much more, and it would be interesting to see him under different management.  O’Neill is a capable manager, but it would be interesting to see how he could flourish under superior management, team mates and opportunities (eg Champions League).

    Result:  I’m still not entirely convinced, to be honest.  Young will absolutely want to make the English squad for the upcoming World Cup, and there’s no better way to improve your game and get yourself noticed than Champions League football.  He’s certainly being courted by a number of teams in that realm, and I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if he chose to move towards the end of the window.  I can’t see him going to either Barcelona or Real Madrid as they already have some of the strongest midfield in the world.

    Tipping him to stay in England with moves to any one of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea possible.  It’s just a matter of who is willing to cough up the exorbitantly high price set by Martin O’Neill




    Ibrahimovic Completes Barca Switch
    July 27, 2009, 11:32 AM
    Filed under: la liga, serie a | Tags: , , , ,

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic has completed his move to Barcelona after the European champions confirmed he had signed a five-year deal.

    A statement on Barcelona’s website revealed they had paid Inter Milan 46million euros for the Swedish striker, with Samuel Eto’o and Alexander Hleb also joining the Italian champions in the ‘swap’ deal.

    The Swede is set to join forces with the likes of Messi, Henry and Xavi.

    The Swede is set to join forces with the likes of Messi, Henry and Xavi.

    Ibrahimovic completed his medical on Monday – and while it showed he had a fractured left hand, a deal was struck which included an astronomical buy-out clause of 250million euros for the player.

    Analysis:  Well well well.  It finally happened.  And such is that, when a high profile name like Ibrahimovic moves to any club, fuss will be made.  And without missing a beat, he’s come out and said he couldn’t stand Serie A or Inter Milan.  Maybe some of Mourinho’s arrogance rubbed off on him during his tenure.  It will be very interesting to see how he fits in, chemically, with the rest of the team.  His attitude could be a problem when it seems like there aren’t many tiffs in at the Nou Camp.



    Ibra Prepared for Camp Nou Switch
    July 24, 2009, 8:41 AM
    Filed under: la liga, serie a, Transfer | Tags: , , ,

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic has agreed personal terms with Barcelona as he edges ever closer to joining the European champions from Inter Milan.

    The two clubs have worked out a swap deal involving Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o, with Alexander Hleb also reportedly being offered to the Italian club on top of a cash payment of 40million euros.

    Inter confirmed on Thursday they were on the verge of signing Eto’o and Barca have now stated that Ibrahimovic is close to coming to moving to the Nou Camp.

    This slovenly looking lad is looking to swap shirts for Barcelona.

    This slovenly looking lad is looking to swap shirts for Barcelona.

    “There are agreements in principle with the player and with Inter and the documents are being drawn up,” sporting director Txiki Begiristain told Barca TV.

    He added that only a few details remained to be worked out and Ibrahimovic could be presented as a Barcelona player as early as Monday.

    One potential problem could be Hleb’s desire to stay at Barca and fight for a place in Pep Guardiola’s side.

    “I have a contract with Barcelona and am currently preparing for the new season with the team,” the Belarus international told Sport Bild.

    “My aim is to make the breakthrough here and be successful with this club.”

    Hleb’s agent has also denied being contacted about a switch to Inter.

    “Nobody has spoken to me or Alex about a possible transfer to Inter Milan,” said Uli Ferber.

    “We are all a bit surprised about the recent press reports, which we cannot confirm.”

    Analysis:  With the Eto’o/Ibrahimovic looking to go through from all parties, it looks set to happen rather soon.  There really isn’t a loser in the deal which is said to be Eto’o + Hleb (on loan) for Ibrahimovic.  Personally, I’d rather have Eto’o that the lazy Swede, but I guess that’s why I’m relegated to writing about it from my laptop rather than managing Italian and Spanish Champions.



    Transfer News July 23rd

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    July 23rd, 2009

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    MIRROR

  • Xabi Alonso has raised the stakes in his tense battle of wills with Rafa Benitez over his move to Real Madrid.
  • John Terry has told his team-mates he will stay at Chelsea.
  • Eidur Gudjohnsen admits he s thinking over a move to West Ham and the chance to work with Zola again.
  • Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is ready to move in on Aston Villa’s bid for Pompey defender Sylvain Distin.
  • Burnley boss Owen Coyle wants to sign Ecuadorian winger Fernando Guerrero after his sensational debut on their American tour.
  • Portsmouth have made a £2million offer for Hull defender Sam Ricketts.
  • Phil Brown aims to end his frustrations in the transfer market with a £7million deal for Cardiff’s Joe Ledley and Ross McCormack.
  • Preston boss Alan Irvine is in talks with Didi Hamann about a shock move to the Championship after he was freed by Manchester City.
  • THE SUN
  • John Terry will be staying at Chelsea.
  • Jamie Carragher has led the call for Liverpool to keep Real Madrid target Xabi Alonso.

    David Villa - still linked with a move abroad to England now that his moves to Spain seem to have fallen through

    David Villa - still linked with a move abroad to England now that his moves to Spain seem to have fallen through

  • Manchester United have denied any transfer funds are being kept from Alex Ferguson.
  • Steve Bruce wants to seal a £10million deal for Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh.
  • Phil Brown will test Cardiff’s determination to hang on to Joe Ledley by tabling a £5million bis.
  • Tony Pulis is poised to make Dean Whitehead his first summer signing at Stoke.
  • DAILY STAR:
  • Diego Maradona is being lined up by Portsmouth for a sensational move to the Premier League.
  • Chelsea expect John Terry to make a public announcement that he is staying at the club by the end of the week.
  • Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh was last night on the verge of joining Sunderland.
  • Hull manager Phil Brown will test Cardiff’s resolve with a £5million bid for Joe Ledley.
  • DAILY EXPRESS:
  • AC Milan are poised to make a shock £10million bid for Nicklas Bendtner.
  • Sunderland are in pole position to sign Marouane Chamakh.
  • Sunderland have also made a new move to sign Spurs striker Darren Bent.
  • Burnely have reignited their attempts to sign Norwich midfielder Darel Russell.
  • Manchester United’s owners, the Glazer family, have denied claims they have bocked Sir Alex Ferguson from spending the rest of the £8om kitty from Cristiano Ronaldo’s sale.
  • DAILY MAIL:
  • Manchester City will make a sensational last-gasp bid to sign John Terry by offering the Chelsea captain £1m a month in wages.
  • Darren Bent’s move to Sunderland looked back on last night.
  • Rafael Benitez is facing a crucial stage in his tenure as Liverpool manager as he fends off renewed interest in his disgruntled midfielders Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano.
  • Blackburn defender Keith Andrews is a target for Fulham.
  • Aston Villa will return with an improved £3m offer for 31-year-old Sylvain Distin.
    Bendtner - a surprise target for AC Milan

    Bendtner - a surprise target for AC Milan

    DAILY RECORD:

  • Macedonian striker Ilco Naumoski has asked Hearts to improve their offer and bring him to the SPL.
  • Rumours -Pure, unadulterated rumours.  No facts.  Just rumours.

    • Manchester United and Liverpool are both teeing up large bids for David Villa, but are both wary that should the Spaniard choose the rival club, it would spell humiliation for the other.
    • If Arsenal want Klaas Jan-Huntelaar, Real Madrid are asking to have first option on Cesc Fabregas when he chooses to leave the Emirates in the future.
    • Luis Fabiano and fellow Brazilian and former Ballon D’or winner Ronaldinho are on their way to Stamford Bridge.
    • Tottenham have secured the services on Aston Villa’s Ashley Young.
    • Michael Essien is preparing his move to Manchester United
    • Jermain Defoe will move to Sunderland with Keiron Richardson moving in the opposite direction.