English giants seek boost after slump on Euro stage
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Manchester United players surrendered a two-goal lead in a Champions League Group C match against Benfica on Nov 22. AFP photo
Several of England’s leading clubs will look to banish the memory of a disappointing week in the Champions League by getting back on the victory trail in the Premier League this weekend.
Manchester City may be five points clear at the top of the domestic table heading into this weekend’s matches but its hopes of qualifying for the Champions League knockout phase were dealt a huge blow by a 2-1 loss to Napoli.
Before Roberto Mancini’s side goes in search of a reviving win at Liverpool on Sunday, cross-town rival and Premier League champion Manchester United will be on the lookout for a pick-me-up at home to Newcastle on Saturday.
By surrendering a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw with Benfica at Old Trafford, United was left needing to avoid defeat in its final group match at FC Basel next month to be sure of qualifying for the knockout phase.
But if it beats a resurgent Newcastle it will, at least, close the gap on City to two points.
“People can look at the season and criticize and maybe we are not in the position we would like,” said United midfielder Darren Fletcher.
“We had one disastrous result in the league against Manchester City (a 6-1 derby defeat) and a couple of draws in the Champions League but overall it has been a solid start.
“As the season goes on, we will be looking to progress, as we always do.”
No-one, though, is more in need of a domestic tonic after a poor Champions League result than Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Wednesday’s 2-1 loss away to Bayer Leverkusen followed back-to-back home league defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal.
Chelsea is now 12 points behind City and with Blues owner Roman Abramovich notorious for sacking under-performing managers, many feel the 34-year-old Portuguese’s days with the Londoners could already be numbered.
Failure to take maximum points on Saturday against a Wolves side who have struggled away from home this season will only intensify the pressure on Villas-Boas but the Chelsea boss is well aware of what his side need from him. “They expect the manager to inspire them,” he said. “That’s my job: to motivate and inspire these people to change our faith.
“The talent is immense; the work is good. The responsibility is mine.”