Tue, Oct 17, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Man U, Arsenal hope to rescue English soccer

AFP , PARIS

Manchester United and Arsenal will try to rescue English soccer from its post-Zagreb depression when they resume their Champions League campaigns today.

Less than a week after Steve McClaren's over-hyped and under-performing team were humbled in Croatia, attention switches back to the continent's premier club competition where all four English sides are flying.

United lead Group F with a maximum six points from two games and face FC Copenhagen at Old Trafford, while Arsene Wenger takes Arsenal, last year's runners-up, to icy Russia to face CSKA Moscow.

The Gunners also have six points from two matches in Group G after wins over FC Porto and Hamburg.

England's other representatives, Chelsea and Liverpool, who lead Group A and C respectively, are in action tomorrow.

Wayne Rooney, one of England's many flops in their doomed Euro 2008 trip to Croatia, is certain to face the Danes at Old Trafford despite not having scored in the tournament since his hat-trick against Fenerbahce in September 2004.

"I am surprised he has not scored in the Champions League for two years," said United boss Sir Alex Ferguson. "We had a bad campaign last year, so you have to put that aside, but nonetheless, I am surprised."

Rooney was in sparkling form on Saturday as United maintained their place at the top of the English Premiership with a 3-1 win at Wigan.

He failed to improve his recent run of just two goals in his last 17 games for club and country, but Ferguson claimed he has no worries about the youngster.

Ferguson said: "Wayne's back to his best. He and Louis Saha are a real handful up-front and, with the experience of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes behind them, you are always going to have a real chance."

Copenhagen will have one face familiar with former Everton man Tobias Linderoth, who left Merseyside in June 2004, pulling the strings for a Danish side which has just one point so far.

Wenger takes Arsenal to chilly Moscow where temperatures are expected to hit zero.

The last time the Londoners went to the Russian capital six years ago, they were humiliated 4-1 by Spartak.

"CSKA are a good side," Wenger said. "They have some good Brazilians and also seven players from the Russian national team. A victory would nearly qualify us, so of course we will really go for it."

The game could also see teenager Theo Walcott play some sort of role having been handed his first start in the 3-0 win over Watford on Saturday which elevated the Gunners into fifth place in the Premiership.

Celtic, second to United in Group F, entertain Benfica at Parkhead with a win and a defeat under their belts so far.

The Scottish champions have an injury crisis which could see teenager Evander Sno handed his Champions League debut in the absence of the injured Thomas Gravesen.

"Evander is a bit like [Cesc] Fabregas at Arsenal, people need to remember how young he is," coach Gordon Strachan said.

Real Madrid, who crashed to a 1-0 defeat to Getafe in Spain at the weekend, face Steaua Bucharest in Group E where they are second to Lyon having collected one win from two games.

On Saturday, they had Ronaldo sent off while club captain Raul and defender Ivan Helguera suffered injury problems which could keep them out of the match against the tough Romanians.

Real are already without their right back options Cicinho and Michel Salgado.

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