United wary of Wolfsburg
Buoyed by seven straight victories in all competitions, Manchester United can topple Champions League Group B leader Wolfsburg by beating the German champions at Old Trafford on Wednesday.sports Updated: Sep 30, 2009 00:07 IST
Buoyed by seven straight victories in all competitions, Manchester United can topple Champions League Group B leader Wolfsburg by beating the German champions at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
United manager Alex Ferguson has been impressed by the debutants in Europe's premier club competition and their strikers Grafite and Edin Dzeko, who combined for 54 goals last season to help Wolfsburg to their first Bundesliga title.
“It says a lot for Wolfsburg's ambition and progress that they did win the league last year and they did it in a very positive way,” Ferguson said.
“The most amazing thing about our opponents is that you look at the history of German football for the last umpteen years, it's unusual for a team with Wolfsburg's background to win the Bundesliga and the number of goals they scored was amazing."
Ferguson believes obtaining six points from the four-team group will cinch qualification to the knockout stage.
"Wolfsburg probably are the main dangers to qualifying," Ferguson said.
The Red Devils, who lost last season's Champions League final to Barcelona, boast an unbeaten home streak in the competition dating back to February 2005. Ferguson believes that will continue if they can exploit Wolfsburg's defensive frailties.
Meanwhile, Besiktas and CSKA Moscow are looking to bounce back from their opening day losses in Wednesday's other Group B encounter, on artificial turf at the Luzhniki stadium in the Russian capital. Besiktas coach Mustafa Denizli has identified CSKA's fragile defence and poor shooting as areas that can be exploited. "It is not a team that cannot be beaten," Denizli said. "When under the slightest pressure, they cannot get organized and they fall apart."
Madrid play Marseille
Madrid: Real Madrid play their opening home game against Marseille on Wednesday, hoping that their revamped squad will deliver a record 10th European Cup this season.
Madrid have made a perfect start to the domestic and European season, providing early support for their decision to spend a quarter of a billion euros ($370 million) in the offseason on eight players, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka.
Madrid have greater incentive this season to end their dismal recent Champions League form — they haven’t reached the quarterfinals in the past five years — as the final will be held at the Bernabeu Stadium.
Madrid, who won 5-2 at Zurich in their first game two weeks ago, lead Group C with three points. Milan also have three, while Marseille and Zurich have none. Milan host Zurich in Wednesday's other group game.
Marseille will be especially wary of Ronaldo, who has scored seven goals in five of the team's six games so far. The French club's former Madrid defender Gabriel Heinze spent three seasons with the world player of the year at Manchester United. "Cristiano is a player with so many qualities that it's hard to talk about advice," Heinze said. "You lose your concentration and then he goes bang."
APOEL ready to give Chelsea the blues
Nicosia: Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia are preparing for a Champions League upset when they take on Chelsea in their first home fixture.
APOEL have already earned a credible 0-0 draw away to Atletico Madrid.
But APOEL go into Wednesday's game with their fair share of injury doubts and missing key players. Influential defenders Paulo Jorge and Joost Broerse will miss the game through injury as will Polish striker Marcin Zewlakow. There are also injury doubts over fellow Poles Kamil Kosowski and forward Adrian Sikora.
Bayern ready for Juve
Munich: Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal insists his goal is to win all five of the Germans’ remaining Champions League group stage matches — starting with main Group A rivals Juventus on Wednesday.
A win over Juventus would keep Bayern top of their group.
"My work continues, my task is to win this game and every group stage match," said the Dutchman. The Italians warmed up for their trip to Bavaria with a 1-1 draw against Bologna in Serie A at the weekend, but there are genuine concerns in the Munich defence.
Van Gaal has an embarrassment of riches in attack with forwards Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose competing with Ivica Olic for the lone striker position flanked by wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. But things are not so solid in defence.