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Manchester United host Porto, Arsenal head for Villarreal

Latest update : 2009-04-07

The Champions League quarter-finals first leg will oppose reigning holders Manchester United to 2004 winners Porto at Old Trafford as Villarreal will try to avenge their Champions League semi-final defeat to Arsenal three seasons ago.

AFP - Manchester United will be motivated by revenge when Sir Alex Ferguson's side face Porto in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg.

After storming back to the top of the Premier League with a dramatic, late 3-2 victory against Aston Villa on Sunday, United turn their attention to Europe and the chance to resolve some unfinished business.

Porto dumped United out of the Champions League in 2004 when the Portuguese club, then managed by Jose Mourinho, followed a 2-1 home win with a 1-1 draw in the return.

Mourinho's famous jig of delight down the touchline when Porto scored their decisive late goal at Old Trafford remains one of the Champions League's most enduring images.

It is still a source of angst among United fans, so it was no surprise they took extra pleasure when Ferguson's team knocked out Mourinho's current side Inter Milan in the last 16 this season.

Now United can complete the second half of their revenge mission by eliminating Porto.

United defender John O'Shea admits the bitter memories of that 2004 defeat will provide the reigning champions with all the incentive they need to blow away Jesualdo Ferreira's team at Old Trafford.

"That was a tough one to take. Paul Scholes had a goal disallowed that was onside and the sight of Mourinho dancing down the touchline was not a happy one for many people," O'Shea said.

"It is one of those things that we want to put to bed."

United, unbeaten on home soil in 19 European games, will be bolstered by the return of Wayne Rooney, Scholes and Nemanja Vidic after the trio missed the Villa match through suspension.

Park Ji-sung is also likely to come back into the starting line-up, while Ferguson will make a late decision on the fitness of Ryan Giggs.

But Ferguson is not expecting Rio Ferdinand, who was sidelined for the Villa game with a groin injury, to be fit for Tuesday.

"I don't think any of the injured players will be back against Porto," the United boss told MUTV. "But we do have the suspended players back which is good.

"'Vida' will play alongside Jonny Evans at the back with John O'Shea moving to right-back.

"Rooney and Scholes are also available which will give us a bit more penetration and experience, and Ji-sung Park will also be ready so I've got some good options for Tuesday.

"I'll have to assess how Ryan is after playing the 90 minutes against Villa.

"It's a big ask for someone at 35 years of age to play another game two days later at the kind of level we play."

A substantial victory on Tuesday would put United in pole position going into the second leg at the Dragao Stadium next week, but Porto finished top of their group before knocking out Atletico Madrid on away goals and Ferguson is warning against complancency.

"We've done the work on Porto. I've watched DVDs of their last six matches. Also they beat Arsenal 2-0 this season and played very well that day," Ferguson said.

"Lisandro Lopez is a finisher, a real striker. I'm very mindful of the last time we met. It will be a difficult tie."

Porto's hopes of a positive result will rest on the finishing of Lisandro and the cultured promptings of his Argentinian colleague Lucho Gonzalez, back after missing Saturday's 3-1 win over Guimaraes through suspension.

The duo have scored six goals between them in Europe this season and, together with powerful Brazilian forward Hulk, they could prove troublesome for a United defence that has looked fragile in recent weeks.

After a record-breaking run of cleansheets earlier in the season, United have conceded eight goals in their last three games and were exposed again by Villa on Sunday.

Despite their defensive worries, United, who would face either Arsenal or Villarreal in the semi-finals, are firm favourites to reach the final in Rome.
 

Arsenal tackle Villarreal in the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday in a rematch of the 2006 semi-final where the Spaniards suffered a narrow, heart-breaking defeat.

Villarreal have a score to settle with Arsene Wenger's men who defeated them 1-0 three seasons ago in a game which saw Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann save a last-minute penalty from Argentine playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme.

French midfielder Robert Pires was in the Arsenal side that day but now dons Villarreal colours and is relishing the chance to face his former club.

"It will be the first time I've played against them," said Pires, ahead of the first-leg tie at El Madrigal.

"We are teams with contrasting styles but also with top-quality players. It's not the best thing to be playing the return leg away from home but if we perform like we have in the past we can get through.

"If I'm lucky enough to score I know that I won't celebrate, simply as a gesture of respect to a club, and their fans, which have meant so much in my career."

Arsenal are on a hot streak with ther 2-0 win over Manchester City on Saturday meaning they are 17 games unbeaten in the league.

"There is a lightness in the team now which I enjoy and we are playing without the handbrake on," said Wenger.

"We are 17 games unbeaten and are not the same team that was playing in the autumn. However, I don't think you can say we are the favourites against Villarreal."

The timely return of Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor and key Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas have boosted Arsenal ahead of the Villarreal clash.

The return of Fabregas, out since December with a knee injury, is a massive plus although he has not yet got match sharpness after three months on the sidelines.

In stark contrast, Villarreal were hit with a hammer blow this weekend when Spanish international midfielder Santi Cazorla was ruled out for the rest of the season with a broken leg sustained in Saturday's 3-0 defeat to Almeria.

Pires was also sent-off in that game.

Villarreal are out of the title race, lying fourth and a massive 24 points behind Barcelona.

The Champions League is their last shot at silverware this season.

Coach Manuel Pellegrini was in charge when Villarreal and Arsenal met in 2006 but has warned his players to not get too sidetracked by the idea of revenge.

"Progressing should be more than important than the spirit of revenge," explained Pellegrini.

"We know they play fast and different football but that doesn't make it better. We will have to wait and see if we can surpass them this time.

"That meeting was three years ago and now everything is different. We have different teams, different players and different times."

The Chilean manager has a point with Spain's Euro 2008 hero Marcos Senna and Javi Venta the only two survivors from that defeated 2006 Villarreal side.

Arsenal have changed a lot too with big stars such as Thierry Henry and Sol Campbell leaving, but the likes of Kolo Toure, Fabregas and Emmanuel Eboue remain.

This time Arsenal have the second leg at home but Villarreal are a tough nut to crack as holders Manchester United found out at the group stage when they were held to a 0-0 draw home and away.

Arsenal will want to do better and grab the all-important away goal for the return leg at the Emirates Stadium on April 15.

The winner of the tie will face either defending European champions Manchester United or Porto in the semi-finals.
 

Date created : 2009-04-07

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