Emery playing to win in Europe

Arsenal boss Unai Emery says that the Europa League is important to the club this season and they have full respect for the competition.

Having missed out on the Premier League top four for a second successive season, the Gunners are once again competing in the Europa League rather than the Champions League and get their campaign underway on Thursday with a home game against Vorskla Poltava from Ukraine.

The transition to regular Thursday/Sunday football may not be ideal but it is a trophy that Arsenal will be taking seriously with Emery keen to win silverware in his first season since taking over from Arsene Wenger.

He told a press conference ahead of Thursday's game: "Every title for us is very important. In 2000, Arsenal played the final against Galatasaray but didn't win. And also, Arsenal played the final in 2006 in the Champions League and also didn't win.

"In my career, the ambition is very important for continuing to improve and continuing to achieve the objectives in my career personally and with the team. I want to play for every title going forward."

Emery added that the game represents an opportunity to keep improving after a poor start to the current season.

He said that the best available 11 will play on Thursday night as they aim to "continue to improve in our way both tactically and individually."

Arsenal are 1/8 to start off with a win with Vorskla Poltava 25/1 and the draw 9/1.

Arsenal lost their first two Premier League games to Manchester City and Chelsea but have followed that up with three consecutive wins to push them up the table.

The Gunners' next league game is on Sunday with Everton the visitors to the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal are 8/1 to win the Europa League this season while they are 2/1 to finish in the top four in the Premier League.

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Martins rejects Phoenix offer

Obafemi Martins won't be joining Wellington Phoenix for the new A-League season.

The veteran Nigeria striker had been offered a marquee contract by Mark Rudan's club.

Wellington had been given the go-ahead by Football Federation Australia to put together a deal using some of FFA's $3 million marquee fund.

But Martins, who suffered a serious injury while playing for Shanghai Shenhua in April, has turned down the chance.

He has told agent Ante Alilovic, who was acting as an intermediary between Shenhua and the A-League side, that he wants to stay in the UK and receive treatment for a badly torn hamstring and quadricep injury.

Speaking of the 33-year-old, Alilovic said: "He just wants to continue to rehabilitation from his injury in the UK for the time being. He's told me he wants to hold off until January (to make a decision on his future).

"I don't think the A-League is a serious option in terms of what he can earn elsewhere. He won't be coming to Australia and I think he sees his future remaining in China."

It leaves Wellington, who have already failed with their attempt to sign former Chelsea star Michael Essien, still looking for a marquee signing.

The club are in danger of losing their A-League licence at the end of the 2019-20 season unless they can improve off-field 'metrics' like attendances and TV ratings.

The Phoenix only just avoided the wooden spoon last season, thanks to a win on the final day of the campaign, and have only made the finals once in the past six years.

Rudan has several slots to fill in his squad, with 11 players having left since the end of last season.

So far only six new players have arrived, including former Melbourne City striker David Williams and Polish midfielder Michael Kopczynski, who has signed on a year-long loan from Legia Warsaw.

Wellington are 33/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Phoenix are 2/1 to win their first game of the season against Newcastle, who are 6/5 with the draw 13/5.

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Good back in Melbourne

Defender Curtis Good is happy to be back with Melbourne City, six years after leaving the A-League side.

Good has signed a one-year deal with Warren Joyce's side following a successful trial period.

He made his breakthrough as a senior player with City when they were known as Melbourne Heart in 2011-12.

Good's form earned him selection at Australia U-20 level that season and he played 25 games in his only season with the club before Newcastle United stepped in with an offer of around $600,000 for him.

In more than five years on Tyneside his only first-team appearance came in a League Cup tie against Morecambe in August 2013 and then an FA Cup game against Oxford last year.

But he had loan spells with Bradford City and Dundee United, and played for Bradford in their 2013 League Cup Final defeat to Swansea City. Good was released by Newcastle at the end of last year.

The 25-year-old, who picked up a hip injury on his Socceroos debut in 2014, has never been able to play a full season but is looking forward to the chance of doing so back in his home city.

"I learnt a lot over in the UK but unfortunately my opportunities were curbed a little by the injury I picked up with the Socceroos," he said. "I'm motivated to work hard in training and remind everybody what I can do.

"I'm looking forward to competing for my place and helping the side push for success this year. This is a club with big ambitions and has grown a lot since I was last here – we have to aim high this year."

Melbourne City are 9/2 to win the A-League Grand Final.

City are 7/5 to win their first game of the season against Melbourne Victory, who are 17/10 with the draw 13/5.

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Late Inter loss deflates Poch

Mauricio Pochettino was left disappointed that a good performance by Tottenham Hotspur counted for little as they were beaten 2-1 at Inter Milan in the Champions League.

Spurs appeared to be on course for a famous victory in the San Siro when they led 1-0 with five minutes to play, courtesy of a Christian Eriksen goal.

However, the hosts hit back late on through Mauro Icardi and Matias Vecino to snatch victory and leave head coach Pochettino frustrated by what he felt was a strong display go unrewarded.

He said at his post-match press conference: "The performance was good from the team, the result should have been different and I think everyone will agree.

"The team deserved much more and I think that was our best performance since we started the season, but we lost the game.

"The team played so well, I am happy with their performance and their character but, of course, disappointed with the result.

"Of course, we stay positive. It will be tough to play against Barcelona (next), but we need to win, we need to try to give our best. But first of all we have Brighton on Saturday."

Spurs have now lost their last three games, all by a 2-1 scoreline, with the defeat in Milan following Premier League reverses against Watford and Liverpool.

The Londoners will be looking to get back on track on Saturday when they head to the South Coast to take on Brighton, with this Premeir League fixture having ended 1-1 last season.

Another 1-1 draw on Saturday is priced at 7/1, with the visitors 8/1 to claim a 2-0 victory and 15/2 to win thanks to the only goal of the game.

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Sturridge display delights Klopp

Striker Daniel Sturridge took the plaudits from head coach Jurgen Klopp after impressing in Liverpool's 3-2 Champions League victory over Paris Saint-Germain at Anfield.

Sturridge has been beset by injury problems in recent seasons, but made the most of a rare opportunity to start as he scored the opening goal of the game against the French champions.

Klopp was just as pleased with the overall contribution made by Sturridge, who took the place of Roberto Firmino, who overcame an eye problem to come off the bench and score a late winner for the Reds.

He told reporters: "It was a great performance by Daniel.

"The three in midfield did an outstanding job, but they can only do it when the two wingers and the number nine are helping in all these situations to keep the formation compact. It was fantastic.

"I said to Daniel before the game 'you are in the best shape since I have known you, physically wise, so now you have to use that'. That's what he did. Super game, super goal.

"When you have Firmino available, it's always like 'come on', but it was nice to see Daniel's performance. He 100 per cent paid us back. It's cool for us and for him."

Liverpool are back in Premier League action on Saturday when they welcome Southampton to Merseyside, with the hosts having now won all six games they have played so far this season.

Sturridge is priced at 10/11 to score at any time against the Saints, with Sadio Mane available at 11/10 and James Milner 2/1.

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Marcelino talks up Juve quality

Valencia head coach Marcelino is well aware of the class that Champions League opponents Juventus possess, especially following their summer signing of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Former Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo makes a quickfire return to Spain on Wednesday evening, having netted 15 goals in 17 previous outings against Los Che.

And Marcelino accepts that the presence of the Portuguese ace makes things even more difficult for his players against a side who were already amongst the best in Europe.

He told reporters: "Juventus are the best team in Italy without any doubt. The results say so, both locally and in Europe.

"Juventus are a competitive, winning team, who use their resources to the fullest and manage to win their league with ease.

"They're a great team, with tradition and history and they are a candidate to win the Champions League. Our mentality means we play to win every game. We'll never give up on anything and we're here to compete."

Of the individual threat of Ronaldo he added: "We've faced Cristiano Ronaldo several times before and suffered against him, but fear isn't an appropriate emotion.

"We're not afraid to work and we'll try to limit him as much as possible."

Ronaldo, who has scored a record 120 Champions League goals, got off the mark for Juve at the weekend as he netted both goals in a 2-1 Serie A win over Sassuolo.

He is 10/11 to score at any time on Wednesday evening, with Juve 6/1 to win the game 1-0 and  to keep a clean sheet.

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Champions League: Atletico Make Winning Start as They Chase Destiny

AS Monaco 1-2 Atletico Madrid

This Champions League clash was billed by some as the ‘Thomas Lemar derby’.

The French winger left AS Monaco for Atletico Madrid in the summer and this was an immediate homecoming for the player who cost Los Rojiblancos in the region of £50 million.

us fans will have noticed Lemar had failed to score in his first five games for his new club, so what would the Champions League 2018 odds be on him breaking his duck against his former employer?

As it turned out, he only played a cameo part on his return as Atletico won with perhaps more ease than the scoreline suggests.

Highlights of the game

No wonder Atletico have been tipped by so many to do well and provide some of the Champions League 2018 highlights.

As well as recruiting Lemar in the summer, the Europa League holders have added the likes of Rodri and Gelson Martins to their ranks while keeping star man Antoine Griezmann.

In contrast, Monaco sold Lemar, Joao Moutinho and Fabinho, hot on the heels of losing a number of stars last summer including French whizz-kid Kylian Mbappe, Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva.

With one club so weakened and the other clearly strengthened, surely this contest would favour the away side?

Both sides were keen to make amends after suffering early exits in last season’s tournament, even if Atletico had the consolation of UEFA Europa League success.

Monaco, however, bowed out of Europe altogether at the conclusion of the group stage, having finished bottom of a section that included Besiktas, Porto and RB Leipzig.

They started brightly here and were rewarded when Samuel Grandsir poked in the opening goal after 18 minutes, capitalising on uncharacteristic defensive errors.

Home captain Radamel Falcao—the former Atletico hero who scored 52 goals in 68 matches for the club between 2011 and 2013—picked Saul Niguez’s pocket and sent the ball into the box where Angel Correa could only direct the ball to Grandsir.

Yet, the incentive of reaching next June’s final, which will be held at Atletico’s Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, is a massive appeal and they struck twice before the break to take charge and take a winning first step towards that goal.

Griezmann, one of the stars of Russia 2018, threaded a clever ball to Diego Costa and the striker finished calmly to mark his first Champions League appearance for Atletico since 2014.

Then, on the stroke of half-time, Jose Maria Gimenez headed home a Koke corner to put the visitors in front.

Jose Maria Gimenez has hit a goal that led Atletico to a 1-2 win against Monaco in recent UEFA Champions League game

Atletico Madrid hero Jose Maria Gimenez in action against Monaco during their Champions League game at Stade Louis II

Diego Godin and Costa both had goals disallowed at the start of each half, but Atletico weren’t made to rue the ones that got away, even if Kamil Glik went close to a home equaliser.

For all their probing and effort, AS Monaco were otherwise largely restricted to long-range efforts in the Louis II Stadium

Lemar’s arrival with 20 minutes remaining merely highlighted the difference in squad strength between the two sides. And Diego Simeone, who had to watch from the stands as he completed a touchline ban going back to last season, was pleased with his side’s winning mentality.

Key statistics

This was the first-ever meeting between the two clubs.

Monaco have only lost twice at home to Spanish opponents, winning six of their eight clashes.

Monaco are now without a win in nine European games (D2 L7). Their last victory was a 3-1 home win against Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-final second leg in April 2017.

Atletico have lost only one of 14 fixtures against Ligue 1 sides.

Griezmann has now been involved in seven of Atletico’s last nine goals with five markers and two assists.

What’s next?

It’s back to La Liga and after a disappointing start to the campaign, Atletico need to return to winning ways domestically.

They have picked up five points from a possible 12, well below early expectations, and only scored three times in four games. Costa has also gone 13 games without scoring.

Capital city neighbours Getafe and newly promoted Huesca are the next opponents before an eagerly anticipated Madrid derby at the Bernabeu on September 29.

Monaco entertain Nimes and Angers in Ligue 1 as they bid for their first win since the opening day of the season. They then travel to Saint-Etienne before resuming their Champions League group campaign.

As for this competition, Atletico are level at the top of the group with Borussia Dortmund who beat Club Brugge 1-0. They face the Belgian champions next on October 3, the same day as Monaco meet the Germans.

 

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Champions League: Fantastic Firmino Makes Anfield Alive!

Liverpool 3-2 PSG

The Champions League has plenty of exciting games to look forward to, and this game between Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain was one of the most-anticipated matches from the moment the two clubs were grouped together.

Both teams starred outstanding attacking talent that terrorised much of England and France. They also have top-notch managers in Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel who once managed another exciting Bundesliga outfit in Borussia Dortmund. Liverpool vs PSG predictions were difficult to make due to how competitive both of these teams were.

Many expected an exciting game, but I don’t think Anfield anticipated such a brilliant and resilient showing from their Reds!

Highlights of the game

Liverpool’s front three weren’t at full strength during the start as Roberto Firmino started on the bench. However, the Reds played their attacking football as if the Brazil international was on the pitch, validating Klopp’s reasoning of picking his own attacking three over PSG’s trident of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe.

Alphonse Areola was put to work early in the game due to the pesky attacks of the Mohamed Salah-led Reds. Virgil van Dijk and James Milner had early shot attempts at the goal, and both shots were brilliantly saved by the World Cup-winning France keeper. Joe Gomez also tried to test Areola’s keeping skills, but his fifteenth-minute header flew wide of the left post.

Of course, the hosts aren’t the only supreme attacking force on display, and PSG immediately reminded everyone at Anfield that they are heavy favourites to make it out of the group. Neymar and Edinson Cavani threatened Alisson with brilliant individual efforts. Fortunately, the Brazilian stopper easily handled the balls.

The high-octane exchanges would continue for the next 10 minutes as both sides tussled to get a goal, and everyone in the stadium could feel that a goal was not far away. The players stepped up their tempo as they tried to give their side the much-needed advantage.

The goal was indeed delivered on 30 minutes, and it was the majority of Anfield who celebrated the first strike. Daniel Sturridge, who came in for Firmino, connected with an Andrew Robertson cross and smashed the close-range header to the middle of the goal. There was nothing Areola could do about the ceded goal.

Mbappe tried to equalise the score five minutes later with a fine effort inside the box, but his shot went just over the crossbar. However, he might have rued not scoring the equaliser for Juan Bernat made a poor tackle on his opponent. Referee Cuneyt Cakir immediately pointed to the spot. Milner took the penalty and gave the Reds an all-important two-goal cushion.

However, Thomas Meunier immediately dampened the high spirits of Liverpool with a fantastic shot of their own. A cross meant for Cavani went nowhere, and the ball ended up on the feet of the Belgian full-back. He fired a first-time shot that went straight to the bottom-left corner. Some may complain that Cavani was offside when the pass was made, but the decision stood. The half ended with the Reds hanging to a one-goal edge.

The second half saw as much Champions League 2018 highlights that we witnessed in the first half. The half was filled with as much drama despite the lack of goals compared to the first half.
Mohamed Salah, the Liverpool star who fell in love with the club through the FIFA video games, was hyperactive in the half. He was eager to open his Champions League account for the season and was very active at the final third.

He actually saw his effort bore fruit in the 58th minute when he was able to poach the ball into the net. However, his goal was disallowed due to Sturridge fouling Areola a second before the goal was made.

It was from that point on that the us tips made before the match were starting to turn stale. Liverpool began to look impatient while PSG began to find their stride. Their dilemma got worse when Kylian Mbappe, the young French superstar, fired the equaliser on 83 minutes. The game was in anybody’s hands now.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe on target against Liverpool in the Champions League

Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring an equaliser for PSG during their Champions League match against Liverpool

It was during this dark times that Klopp made the most surprising decision: he tapped Firmino, who was injured in Liverpool’s win against Tottenham, to enter the game in the 73rd minute. He kept up the offensive pressure as the Liverpool trio was in full strength.

His ninety-third-minute goal was what settled the game, much to the delight of Liverpool fans. He created some space inside the box and fired the ball to the bottom left. There was nothing Areola could do but see the ball go in.

Klopp, like the rest of Anfield, was ecstatic to see such a fantastic game end in their favour. Both teams could have won the game, and he is just glad that they are the ones grinning to the showers.

Key statistics

Roberto Firmino has scored in his last three competitive outings to make up for Salah’s three-match scoring drought. It is also interesting to point out that all of the changes Klopp made in the game were on the attacking end.

One could say that Liverpool won the game in terms of the final score and content, but the stats show that the Reds were far from clinical on the attacking end. They fluffed five shot attempts and failed to make the most of the 13 corner kicks they were gifted.
However, the fact that they limited a prolific PSG side to only nine goal attempts is a victory for Klopp’s gegenpressing philosophies.

What’s next?

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp congratulates his players after their Champions League match against PSG

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates with his players after their Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain

It’s back to the domestic fronts for these two giants. Liverpool will be squaring off against Southampton in the Premier League before facing Chelsea in the League Cup. Meanwhile, PSG will be facing Rennes and Reims up next.

The next round of the Champions League is a tough one for Klopp: they are headed to Napoli to face a dangerous team led by Carlo Ancelotti. Meanwhile, Tuchel has a chance for redemption against Crvena Zvezda.

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Champions League: Matias is the Man in Milan

Inter Milan 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Inter Milan left it late, but they came from behind to beat Spurs at the San Siro with an injury-time winner from Matias Vecino.

Christian Eriksen had put Spurs ahead early in the second half, and the visitors looked comfortable until Mauro Icardi hit a brilliant late strike to set up Vecino’s dramatic finale.

So Inter has opened their Champions League campaign with a bang, and coach Luciano Spalletti will use this as a springboard to launch the season. This was a massive result in Group B, with only two qualifying places available and Barcelona in the pot. Champions League 2018 betting fans will be counting on Barca proceeding after Leo Messi scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 destruction of PSV tonight.

Highlights of the game

The Spurs defence was given a real run-around by Liverpool on Saturday, and Mauricio Pochettino left out Toby Alderveireld and Kieran Trippier for this game; Hugo Lloris and Dele Alli remained sidelined through injury. His side needed to put up a better show than what they had at the weekend, but they looked a little edgy in the opening exchanges while Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi linked up well for Inter.

But the first shot on goal came from Spurs and tested Inter keeper Samir Handanovic when Christian Eriksen swerved a free-kick towards him from 30 yards, but he managed to beat the ball away.

Inter were right up for the game, pressing high and playing at a tempo, and Perisic put a dangerous ball in from the left which was punched away by Spurs keeper Michel Vorm. But the best chance of the first half came to Spurs striker Harry Kane. Eriksen put him clean through on goal with a world-class pass, but the arch hitman took a bad second touch and the chance went agonisingly by.

Inter came out for the second half on the front foot, and Matteo Politano sent a shot fizzing just wide of Vorm’s post. And Spurs centre-back Jan Vertonghen took a yellow card for the team, pulling back Icardi as he made a dangerous run.

Mauro Icardi scored Inter Milan’s first Champions League goal in 2,381 days

Mauro Icardi scores a stunning volley to equalise against Tottenham Hotspur

But then, Spurs took the lead against the run of play, and it was a pretty messy goal from Inter’s viewpoint. Eriksen took a shot from 20 yards which Handanovic beat away and when the ball landed back with Eriksen he sliced his shot which deflected off Miranda, over the hapless keeper and into the net.

Inter tried to respond quickly with Politano crossing for Perisic, but his header was well held by Vorm.  Spurs came out in search of a second: Serge Aurier finding Erik Lamela in space, but his shot was saved. Heung-Min Son poked the ball into the net but was offside.

Pochettino brought quick-footed Lucas Moura on midway through the second half, and he stretched the Inter defence immediately by setting up a chance for Lamela that Handanovic saved again.

Spalletti tried his hand, bringing on Keita Balde for Politano. As Inter began to throw the ball forward in search of an equaliser, Radja Nainggolan had a hopeful header saved before Antonio Candreva fired just over the bar on 81 minutes.

But then, on 85 minutes, up stepped the ever-reliable Mauro Icardi with a brilliant goal to level. Kwadwo Asamoah chipped a ball back to Icardi some 25 yards out, and he lashed a volley into the corner to give Vorm no chance. What a goal!

Inter stepped up the pace in search of a winner and unbelievably it came, on 92 minutes, when Stefan de Vrij headed a corner back across goal and Matias Vecino was there to nod the ball home to spark wild celebrations in Milan.

Key Statistics

Our pre-match us tips went for Inter with a Draw No Bet caveat, and eventually, it came good for Spalletti’s boys. It was a tight match as predicted, with Spurs having 54 per cent of the ball, while Inter won the shot count by 15 to 11.

Inter now won their last three matches at home to Spurs, and there are always goals in this game, 22 in the last five meetings.

Christian Eriksen has scored three goals in his last five Champions League appearances, but this time to no avail.

Tottenham take the lead through Christian Eriksen in the Champions League match vs Inter

Christian Eriksen’s goal silenced San Siro

What’s next?

Inter qualified for the Champions League with a last-gasp win over Lazio and they are determined to make a go of it. Keep up with the Champions League 2018 news when Inter play PSV early in October; that should be another cracker! But before that, they want to get their domestic campaign up and running. They sit at fifteenth with four points from the first four games, and a trip to 5th-placed Sampdoria will be another stiff test.

Spurs are on the way to the South coast of England to meet Brighton on Saturday. In sixth place and six points off the furious pace set by Chelsea and Liverpool, they need a win. But the Seagulls are pretty good at home and will be buoyed by a great point won at Southampton on Monday.

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Jose taking one step at a time

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho says it is far too early to talk about whether his team are serious candidates to win the Champions League this season.

The Red Devils begin their Group H campaign away to Young Boys on Wednesday evening, with Mourinho hoping to mastermind a fourth United European Cup triumph, with the last having come back in 2008.

However, the Portuguese is not about to get too far ahead of himself, telling reporters: "It is premature to be speaking about our chances when we didn't even play the first match.

"I would focus on the first match and after that on the group phase – one of the most difficult group phases – and we have two positions to qualify and our focus must be on that."

Meanwhile, Mourinho also confirmed that England international striker Marcus Rashford will start the game in Bern, but Luis Antonio Valencia will not feature due to concerns about how he would cope with a long-standing knee problem on the artificial turf in Switzerland.

The Portuguese added: "We decide not to play Antonio Valencia because his knee is not a knee that needs an artificial pitch at all.

"Valencia's situation, we need to protect his clinical situation, apart from that we go with everything we have and have to try and win."

United, who have won their last two Premier League games, are 7/10 to claim victory on Wednesday evening and are 7/1 to win the game by a 2-0 scoreline.

Rashford is available at 7/4 to score at any time, having recently found the net for England against both Spain and Switzerland.

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