Archive for October, 2010

Arsenal v Shakhtar Donetsk: Preview

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

After Arsène Wenger used his programme notes for Saturday’s clash with Birmingham City at the Emirates to – somewhat predictably – weigh into the heated debate about over-zealous tackling currently doing the rounds , the Frenchman perhaps shouldn’t have been too surprised to then watch Samir Nasri and Emmanuel Eboué kick lumps out of City’s Liam Ridgewell, before 5ft. 8ins Jack Wilshere toppled 6ft. 7½ ins Nikola Žigi? with what could only be politely described as a clumsy lunge. Perhaps he should have picked on someone his own size.

Wenger – to his credit – admitted that Wilshere’s red card was warranted, but after heading into a game where they would have been the ones expected to be on the end of the tasty challenges, the Arsenal players have been experiencing life on the other side of the coin this week as they prepare for the Champions League visit of Shakhtar Donetsk.

“When I tackled him I didn’t want to kill him,” said Eboué of the forceful challenge on Ridgewell that earned him a yellow card. “When I did that tackle I didn’t go through the back. I just wanted to touch the ball.

“The referee (Martin Atkinson) spoke to me after the game and said, ‘Emmanuel, I know you touched the ball but the tackle was very dangerous’. I just said, ‘OK, no problem’. Next time I will be more careful.

“We are not a dirty team. Everyone knows we like to play football and make everyone happy when we play and we like to score. What happened on Saturday is finished. Now when we play we just have to play football and be careful on the pitch.”

Their efforts to ‘play football’ could be helped tonight with the possible return of captain Cesc Fàbregas, who returns after injuring a hamstring at Sunderland a month ago. The skipper may have to be patient though.

“Cesc has prepared well,” said Wenger, whose side take on the only other side in Group H with two wins from two matches tonight. “He had a little setback, but got over the hurdle and is ready to play at full fitness, but whether I start him or not, I do not know yet.

“It will be whether I take a gamble or not, because he has been out for a long time. But physically he is ready and fit – and wanting to play.

“You know his influence on our team, he is our leader, our passer, he has a good level of assists and a good goalscoring record. Ideally you want him in the team.”

Understatements about his captain aside, Wenger will know all about the threat that the Ukrainians of Shakhtar possess – or more specifically their Brazilians.

Samba stars Jádson, Luiz Adriano, Willian and Fernandinho were all key members of the Shakhtar side that won the Uefa Cup in 2009, and while the latter misses out here through injury, the quartet take their place in an impressive squad that also includes Croatian captain Darijo Srna and Ukrainian defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy – back home after a €25million move to Barcelona didn’t exactly work out.

Shakhtar were one of Fulham’s victims during their improbable run to the Europa League final last season, but supporters of the west Londoners claimed that they were the toughest opposition they faced en route, and the north Londoners from the Emirates may be about find out why tonight.

Arsenal should win, and move clear at the top of a group that – on paper – looks to be so simple that it’s not too fanciful to believe that Wenger picked it himself.

You can only beat what’s put in front of you though, and Arsenal do that better than most.

Another win here then, but perhaps with a few less tackles this time.

You will do well to Vouch and place bet for Arsenal to win. 1.38 home win at NaijaBet

Hercules v Villarreal Preview

Villarreal can go top of the Primera Liga if they can beat Hercules tonight. (kick-off 20.00 BST)

Villarreal can go a point clear of Real Madrid if they wrap up a sixth straight victory in Alicante, but midfielder Bruno Soriano has warned his side they must not take Hercules lightly.

The newly-promoted side have already claimed the scalps of Barcelona and Sevilla, and Soriano does not want him and his team-mates added to that list at the Estadio Jose Rico Perez.

He said: “It’s a very difficult game. Hercules, without running down the other sides who came up this year, are a very strong team.

“They’ve signed well and won at grounds and against teams that are very difficult. They’ve strengthened with important and experienced players like David Trezeguet and Royston Drenthe.

“We will be careful, although it’s clear that neither are we going to make it easy for them.”

3.60 home win at NaijaBet

Barcelona vs. Valencia-Preview

Friday, October 15th, 2010

The two heavyweights of Spanish football take on each other in what is anticipated to be a very exciting encounter at the Nou Camp. Valencia and Barcelona have a long and historical rivalry in the Spanish football league and thus one can expect the up-coming match between the two clubs to be full of tension as Valencia currently occupy the top spot in the Spanish Primera Division rankings.

However, that is not all. Barcelona’s slow start to the season has meant that they are currently in the 4th place in the league table and a win over Valencia will propel them to the top of the table; given that results elsewhere go favourably as far as the Catalonians are concerned.

Valencia on the other hand will be looking to take things as they come. Their start to the season has been immaculate. The only dark patch on their “clean” start came in the UEFA Champions League when they lost to Manchester United at the Mestalla Stadium in a group stage matchup.

Other than that, Joaquin and co. have been on fire. No one actually expected Valencia to be the in-form team this season, despite losing the likes of David Villa and Silva in the summer transfer window to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively. The club has diverted all its recent income towards settling their debt concerns.

Valencia’s financial situation might not be as sound as other club’s in the Spanish league but their performances have certainly done the Los Che’s proud. Valencia’s match against Barcelona will be their 7th of the season in the Spanish Primera Division of league football. Valencia began their league season with an emphatic 3-1 win over Malaga, away from home.

From thereon in, it has been a steady rise to the top for the Spanish giants who have struggled in the recent season to match the might of Real Madrid and Barcelona. In their second league match of the season, Valencia hosted Racing Santander and easily defeated the Spanish minnows by 1-0.

In their third match, Valencia took on the newly promoted Hercules Alicante and bested the men who defeated Barcelona at Nou Camp by 2-1. After the match with Hercules, Valencia played host to Atletico Madrid which was a difficult match for the men from the city of Valencia.

In the end, the match concluded with the score line at 1-1. Since then, Valencia managed to win both their last two league games against Sporting Gijon and Athletic Bilbao. Conversely, Barcelona began their league campaign with an authoritative three goal win against Racing Santander but then lost their second league match to Hercules Alicante at the Nou Camp.

Despite the fact that they won their third match in the Spanish Primera Division by 2-1 against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona have not been in the best of form this season. They have impressed in some matches but in most of their league encounters, the Catalonian fans have been waiting to see the full force of their team.

Pep Guardiola’s men won their fourth and fifth league encounters against Sporting Gijon and Athletic Bilbao but then only managed to draw their last league match against Michael Laudrup’s Mallorca.  Of course, the man to watch out for Barcelona is no one other than, Lionel Messi. He has already netted five goals in the Spanish Primera Division this season and will be looking to fire his team to a spectacular win against Valencia.

Alternatively, Joaquin will be looking to do the same thing for his home side. The Spanish national winger has been given the team’s arm band after Silva and Villa left and thus he has stepped up to set an example as a leader of the team. With two goals already this season, Joaquin Sanchez has all the ability in the world to inflict another defeat on Barcelona in the 2010-2011 Spanish league season.

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