Arsenal topples Montpellier in UCL clash

Other English team in Champions League action last night recorded success as Arsenal opened their Group B campaign with a 2-1 victory in Montpellier. After going behind to a Younes Belhanda goal in the ninth minute, Arsenal struck twice in three minutes through Lukas Podolski and Gervinho and hung on despite second-half pressure from the French champions.

Arsenal was out to win even though it was not all good for the Gunners as the Assistant Manager Steve Bould had to charge following Wenger’s UEFA match ban.

Bould was pleased with the result and had special words for Podolski, who scored his third goal in three matches for his new team saying it was difficult for Arsenal because the Gunners were a bit tired in the second half after perfect execution in the first but it was very humid and the crowd got behind them in the second half.

He continued saying ‘Podolski has made a real impact because he has never any finisher as good as Podolski-ever on every foot he is present’.

Bould added that the win would give the team’ a psychological boost for their Barclays Premier League match away to City on Sunday.

Meanwhile, three-time champions Manchester United who are looking to play a third European Cup final at Wembley, having beaten Benfica in 1968 and lost to Barcelona two years ago, are at home to Galatasaray, the Turkish champions today.

The new European Champions Chelsea will begin their title defence today night also to host Italian champions Juventus at Stamford Bridge.

It would be recalled that Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich to win their first European Cup in May.

Del Piero moves to Sydney FC

It can now be confirmed now that foremost Juventus player Alessandro Del Piero will be moving to Australia to play his trade for Sydney FC in a transfer deal worth $4 million after so much speculation, confirmations, retractions and negotiations as he has also become the most expensive football player from anywhere in the world to play in Australia particularly the A-League.

The $2 million a season contract was concluded last night in an event that had been as eagerly awaited in Italy as it has been in Australia, as the Juventus frontman appeared at a press conference beside Tony Pignata the chief executive of  Sydney in Turin at the Principi Hotel.

Sydney’s interest in Del Piero was revealed exclusively a week ago, and the club went public that a deal had been agreed last Friday, only for all parties to cool on that talk at the weekend, insisting there was more work to be done before the contract was signed.

After the deal was concluded last night around 8pm Australian time, Del Piero in confirming the deal at the press conference said ‘For the next two years, I am Australian, so to speak’.

The 37-year-old declared he will be spreading the word of football in Australia and that while he would keep his house and business in Italy, he wouldn’t be treating his A-League stint ”like a holiday”.

Club chairman Scott Barlow added it was a landmark day for the club owned by his father-in-law David Traktovenko, who is also the man who put up the massive wages to make the signing a reality.

“This signing is a major coup for Sydney FC, and marks a historic day for football in this country,” he said. “This is for all Australian football fans.

“Alessandro Del Piero is a global icon of the game, and we are honoured he has chosen Sydney FC, ahead of many other options, as the club where he will begin the next chapter of his illustrious football career.”

Del Piero began his professional career with Padova in 1991 but would make only 14 appearances there before making the switch to Juventus as a 19-year-old. It was there with the ”Old Lady” that Del Piero’s star shone brighter than anyone dared dream during an incredible stint spanning two decades.

He boasted a magnificent record of 208 goals in 513 league matches – and then scored a further 25 goals in 56 Italia Cup matches and another 53 goals in 129 European matches, all despite playing the majority of his career as a trequartista – a link player behind the strikers.

Despite his age, and despite being released at the end of last season, Del Piero still played 28 matches and scored five goals for Juventus – a season when they went undefeated in the league.

He is expected to move to Sydney in two weeks’ time, giving him a fortnight’s preparation before the Sky Blues’ first match of the new season, against Wellington Phoenix.

 

Chelsea to face Juventus in Champions’ League group

Chelsea; last season’s Champions League winner and a first timer in the realm of Champions League winners has been pitched against Italian giants Juventus in the race to defending their title which they were crowned with last season in the group stages of the competition.

Last season EPL champions Manchester City has also been fixed to face Spanish giants Real Madrid who has been said to have been handed the toughest of all the draws by pundits because Real Madrid will be locking horns with three league champions in Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax in Group D.

The Spanish champion beat Ajax 3-0 both home and away in last season’s competition as it will be itching to bid for a record 10th title at home against the Premier League champions.

Champions League winner Chelsea will begin the defense of its title at home against Italian giant Juventus, while Real Madrid will face Manchester City in the tournament’s toughest group.

The group stage pitched the holders against a Juventus side that stormed to the Serie A title and was unbeaten in all competitions last season apart from the Italian Cup final was done today.

Group E includes Shakhtar Donetsk and Champions League debutant Nordsjaelland of Denmark.

With all four teams winning their leagues last year, it is no surprise Group D has been pinpointed as the toughest group.

Juventus should qualify for the knockout stage, along with Chelsea, which knocked the Serie A side out of the competition in 2009.

Meanwhile, Nordsjaelland is expected to do little more than make up the numbers in Group E.

Bayern Munich, last season’s runner-up, is in Group F with Valencia as well as Lille and BATE Borisov.

Four-time winner Barcelona faces Benfica, Spartak Moscow and Celtic.

Manchester United, which failed to clear the group stage last season, also has a relatively weak group with Braga, Galatasaray and Cluj.

Seven-time winner AC Milan was drawn with Zenit St. Petersburg, Anderlecht and Malaga – another Champions League debutant.

French champion Montpellier makes its debut in the competition against Arsenal, Schalke and Olympiakos. Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud scored 21 goals for Montpellier last season, finishing as the joint top scorer in the French league.

Big-spending Paris Saint-Germain returns to the Champions League after an eight-year absence and will play Porto, Dynamo Kiev and Dinamo Zagreb.

Juventus return very possible – Fabio Cannavaro

Former Juventus player Fabio Cannavaro has revealed that if the Italian club calls for his return to the club to replace banned coach Antonio Conte,it will be difficult for him to turn them down.

Now Al Ahli adviser Cannvaro who is 38 years old played 127 games for his former club and scored just seven goals in his double spell with Juventus as a player and if what is making the round is true he will be a possible replacement for Conte who was banned for match-fixing and has commenced a ten-month ban.

Conte, 43, was suspended on Friday by the Italian Football Federation for allegedly failing to alert authorities to an attempted fix while he was coach of Sienna.

Cannavaro will be counting himself lucky for this offer as he only obtained his coaching licence last week.

Conte’s assistant Angelo Alessio was also banned, leaving another member of the coach’s coaching staff Massimo Carrera to oversee Juventus’ 4-2 win over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana in Beijing on Saturday.

In the meantime, Cannavaro’s potential interest in the Juve job, along with his newly acquired coaching credentials, could signal an end to his two-year association with Al Ahli.

Robin Van Persie will remain a Gunner – Wenger

Gunners’ manager Arsene Wenger made his stand known to those bidding for his star striker Robin van Persie that the Dutchman is not going anywhere as he is keeping him as he admitted the 28 year old is one of the best strikers in the World.

Italian Serie A Champion, Juventus, EPL champion Manchester City are the top bidders for his signature as Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson joined the bidding race on Friday to have him at Old Trafford, a bid which is believed to around £30 million.

Van Persie’s deal at Emirates Stadium expires next summer and he is presently unsettled at the club due to Manchester United’s joining the bid for his signature.

Van Persie won both Professional Footballers’ Association and Football Writers’ Association player of the year prizes in recognition of his phenomenal 36-goal contribution for Arsenal in the 2011/12 campaign.

Van Persie we learnt will not travel to Asia later today on Arsenal’s pre-season tour, although the Gunners were keen to stress his non-involvement was due to the striker having only trained for four days since returning from holiday.

The saga is shaping up to be a carbon copy of those that saw Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri both sold last summer – something which dragged on towards the tail end of the transfer window.

But Wenger is convinced that Van Persie will continue to give his all for Arsenal – regardless of whether he leaves the club.

But in case Van Persie leaves Arsenal, the clubalready signed two new strikers in Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud but are also said to be lining up Spain star Fernando Llorente.

AC Milan declares interest in Van Persie

In search of a replacement for former AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Italian giant AC Milan decided to plunge into the race to capture Gunners striker Robin Van Persie who is presently being sought after by Serie A champions Juventus, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Sir Alex Ferguson is reportedly confident that Van Persie will choose Old Trafford, but the lure of San Siro could turn the Dutchman’s head, despite Milan recently losing their Serie A crown to a resurgent Juventus.

It is however obvious that the Arsenal captain will be leaving the club this summer as AC Milan has been seen as the probable club to whisk the striker away as Milan’s vice-president, Adriano Galliani, is now looking to lodge a bid for the Premier League’s top scorer from last season.

The Rossoneri are desperate for another stunning signing following the €62million deal that took Ibrahimovic and Brazilian centre-back Thiago Silva to Qatar backed Paris Saint-Germain this week.

Van Persie is said to be available at around £25million and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger would obviously prefer he moved abroad if a transfer is inevitable.

Van Persie refuses to sign new Arsenal deal

Arsenal striker Robin van Persie has announced that he will not be signing a new deal at the club.

The 28-year-old, who has a year left on his current contract, confirmed that he had met with manager Arsene Wenger and chief executive Ivan Gazidis.

But he revealed that they disagree on the way the club should move forward.

“I’ve thought long and hard about it, but I have decided not to extend my contract,” the Dutchman wrote on his personal website.

The striker had previously kept quiet over his future and refused to commit to a decision until Wednesday.

The Dutchman, who joined Arsenal from Feyenoord in 2004, added: “I love the club and the fans, no matter what happens. I have grown up and became a man during my time with Arsenal FC.

“Everybody at the club and the fans have always supported me over the years and I have always given my all (and more) on and off the pitch. I am very proud of being part of this fantastic club for the last eight years.

“As soon as Mr Gazidis is back from his two-week holiday in America further meetings will follow and I will update you if and when there are more developments.”

Van Persie ended last season as the English Premier League’s top scorer with 30 goals, helping the Gunners to a third-placed finish.

Reigning champions Manchester City have been linked with a move for the prolific frontman, while European heavyweights Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus are all thought to be interested.

Manager Arsene Wenger stated the importance of keeping Van Persie at the club earlier this month but the 28-year-old Dutchman has decided against prolonging his deal.

Edin Dzeko not leaving Man. City – Agent

There has been widespread speculation that Manchester City and Bosnian star Edin Dzeko will be moving on to another club tentatively Italy, after falling from the top allowing the likes of Aguero and Tevez take his shine.

Dzeko joined City in January 2011, after an extremely successful spell at Wolfsburg, but has largely struggled for form since, scoring just 16 goals in 45 games.

The striker’s agent Irfan Redzepagic said the Bosnian striker who left German club Wolfsburg to come and strike for Manchester City is keen to remain in England even though he is rated behind Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez in the pecking order.

Specualtion of the hitman’s movement from Manchester City started to grow when his agent met with Giuseppe Marotta; the manager of Juventus with an eye for an imminent move to Turin came into the picture but later the agent stressed that Dzeko is happy in England and has no immediate plans to leave City.

“But Edin plans to stay at Manchester City. I recently spoke with Marotta, but we talked about other things and we have not talked about Dzeko, because he wants to play in England at City. I think Edin won’t leave City, Irfan Redzepagic concluded.”