English giants look to revive CL campaigns
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Manchester City suffered a huge shock at the hands of Ajax in the previous match day of the Champions League. EPA photoEnglish champion Manchester City and Premier League rival Arsenal will be looking to rebound in tonight’s latest round of Champions League group matches following defeats their last time out.
Defeat for City at home to a young and vibrant Ajax side, who beat the team in Amsterdam a fortnight ago, would signal a second successive group stage exit of Europe’s premier club competition and heap pressure on manager Roberto Mancini.
Mancini, who must deliver something of note on the European front for owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan after his huge investment in players, will also be hoping no-one emerges victorious from the other game where Real Madrid hosts German champions Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund tops the group on seven points with Real a point behind and City is bottom six points adrift of the table toppers after three games.
Arsenal has more room for manoeuver as it too seeks to avenge defeat when it travels to play Schalke 04 as the Gunners lie second three points ahead of Greek outfit Olympiakos.
However, Olympiacos has an enticing home clash with ailing French champions Montpellier and will be expecting at the very least to maintain the pressure on Arsene Wenger’s team.
Mancini realizes that victory tonight is imperative.
Whilst the Italian is satisfied with the improvement in his defense of late he is less happy with his much-vaunted strikeforce, who has been misfiring and scored just once in its last two league games against minnows Swansea and West Ham.
“We have more chances to go through (in the Champions League),” said the 47-year-old. “It’s important we finish in the group stage well. What the Ajax scouts think of us I don’t know, it’s not important; what the players think is.”
While City is unbeaten in 18 home matches in European competition, Ajax can travel in some hope as the team beat City’s neigbors Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford in its Europa League Last 32 clash there last season.
Real goes into their game with Dortmund on the back of having given coach Jose Mourinho his 100th victory of his reign there with a 4-0 win over Real Zaragoza.
Mourinho, who is bidding to become the first coach to win the trophy with three different clubs, said Real just needed maximum points from its remaining two home games to seal its place in the knockout round.
“We are second. Everyone knows that there are groups that are jokes and that this is ‘the group.’
“We are in a good position to progress. If we win the two home matches that we have left they are six points that are well within reach and could be enough to get through to the second round.”
Schalke may have lost its Bundesliga clash on Nov. 3 but its players were not in the least dismayed as it prepared to welcome an Arsenal side that has made its worst start to a Premier League season since Wenger took charge in 1996.
“I think we have every chance. We won in London, why shouldn’t we succeed in front of our own fans?” said their 24-year-old German captain Benedikt Höwedes.
“We will not be thrown off by a defeat.”