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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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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Arteta talks up Citizens potential

Manchester City assistant manager Mikel Arteta believes his side are better prepared than ever before to try and go all the way in the Champions League.

The Citizens have fallen at the quarter-final stage of the competition in each of the last two seasons, having reached the last four in the 2015/16 campaign.

And Arteta, who will be in charge of things for the visit of Lyon on Wednesday evening as head coach Pep Guardiola serves a touchline ban, is confident that the City squad has the potential to be crowned champions of Europe for the first time in their history.

He told reporters at his pre-match press conference: "We have a very young squad. They gained a lot of experience in the last two years and we feel we are better prepared.

"But in the Champions League winning or losing is more detailed. We believe we can do better and tomorrow everything starts – we know how hard it is to play against the teams in Europe."

Meanwhile, Arteta also backed the Citizens players as as talented a set as exists in club football, having won the Premier League title by a massive 19-point margin last season.

The Spaniard added: "For me we have the best players in the world and I look at our players as if they are the best.

"I wouldn't change my players for any others, they are absolutely fantastic. The hunger is this group is incredible."

City, who have never faced Lyon in a competitive fixture before, are 1/6 to win their meeting on Wednesday evening, with a 2-0 home win priced at 15/2 and a Citizens clean sheet available at 1/1.

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CL glory tops Griezmann’s list

Atletico Madrid striker and World Cup 2018 winner Antoine Griezmann is desperate to make the Champions League the next competition in which he tastes success.

The 27-year-old France international helped his country to glory in Russia over the summer, having ended last season by impressing as Atleti triumphed in the Europa League.

And, with La Liga and UEFA Super Cup success already on his CV, Griezmann is clear about what the next major target in his already successful career is, with the Champions League final taking place this season at the Metropolitano home of Atleti.

He told Diario AS: "I see the Champions League trophy and think I'll lift it next.

"We did not have a good campaign last season, but that does not stop me from dreaming often that we will put it right this time.

"European football can be very difficult and last season we were not at our best, certainly my performances were not good enough.

"It gives me more confidence and the motivation is there to succeed in the Champions League with the final coming up at the Metropolitano this year too.

"I don't think it will add pressure, but it will generate momentum around the club and push us towards the final.

"Which trophy do we want to win the most? The Champions League without a doubt."

Griezmann and Atleti open up in Europe away to Monaco on Tuesday evening, with the visitors 4/5 to win the game and 11/10 to keep a clean sheet, while Los Rojiblancos are 12/1 to win the Champions League this season.

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Lopetegui shows respect for Roma

Head coach Julen Lopetegui has warned his Real Madrid side to expect to have to face a Roma outfit who are even better than they were last season.

The Italian outfit reached the semi-finals of the Champions League last season, putting paid to both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona along the way, before losing out to Liverpool.

And Lopetegui, who took charge of Real this summer, is well aware of the size of the test the three-time defending champions will face when they take on Roma at the Santiago Bernabeu in their first Group G game on Wednesday evening.

He told the Spanish media: "I won't explain what Real Madrid are for the Champions League and the Champions League is for Madrid.

"Roma knocked Atletico out of the Champions League last season and then eliminated Barca and I expect a better Roma than last season. We expect to face an intense and aggressive team.

"Pressure on me? You have to face each competition with ambition and enthusiasm. Pressure always exists at Madrid."

Real, who have won only two of their previous home Champions League meetings with Roma, are 4/11 to secure a victory on Wednesday and are 11/4 to win by a one-goal margin, with the hosts 7/1 to claim a 2-1 success.

Meanwhile, Lopetegui says he cannot afford to think too much about superstar Cristiano Ronaldo having left for Juventus in the summer and is focused fully on the player he does have at his disposal.

He added: "No Ronaldo? We are focused on the players who are still here and we are all ready to compete on all fronts."

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