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Transfer Rater: Mertens to Man United


UEFA Champions League Group E

Group E: Arsenal | Panathinaikos | PSV Eindhoven | Rosenborg
Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group F | Group G | Group H


  • English League Champions
  • Champions League pedigree: Quarter-finals 2004

    Arsenal striker Thierry Henry.

    The Star Man - Thierry Henry

    The premier striker in European football has flourished into a goal-scoring machine under the guidance of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

    His 30 goal haul in the Premiership last season was complemented by five fine goals in the Champions League and his virtuoso performance in the Gunners' stunning 5-1 away win against Inter confirmed his ability to produce his best form in this competition.

    After a disappointing Euro 2004 with France, Henry seems to be more driven than ever to succeed in Europe's top club football contest and if Arsenal are to get past the last eight for the first time, they will need their talisman to shine.

    The Weak Link - Jens Lehmann

    Harsh as this may seem on the German who has done a decent job in filling the boots of David Seaman, Lehmann may be a slight chink in the armour of this impressive Arsenal side.

    He made a couple of glaring errors in the Champions League last season and while his team mates dug the Gunners out of a massive hole in the group stages, Lehmann remains something of a loose cannon between the sticks.

    The New Face - Francesc Fabregas

    Barcelona were not best pleased when Arsenal snatched this little midfielder from under their noses and his opening performances for the Gunners first team highlights why the Nou Camp giants are licking their wounds.

    At the age of 17, Fabregas is still learning his trade, but he displayed remarkable maturity by stepping into Patrick Vieira's shoes at the start of the Premiership season. Vieira is first choice for Wenger at the heart of the midfield, but this lad is a star in the making.

    The Coach - Arsene Wenger

    You come at us and we will try to score more than you. That seems to be the ethos of a record breaking Arsenal side who have been displaying the sort of confidence that makes them one of the most formidable sides in Europe just now. At their best, they are thrilling to watch and they have been performing like that for 18 months.

    Arsene Wenger employs a 4-4-2 system, but his reliance on the attacking threat of Thierry Henry is a potential flaw. Jose Antonio Reyes looks set to be a good buy from Sevilla, but is he ready to step into Henry's shoes if he sustains a long term injury?

    Verdict: If they can keep their star men fit, Arsenal should get to the Final.


  • Greek champions
  • Champions League Pedigree: Reached the Final of the Champions' Cup in 1971, losing 2-0 to Ajax at Wembley.

    Panathinaikos' Angelos Basinas.

    The Star Man - Angelos Basinas

    The 28-year-old midfielder was one of the unsung heroes of Greece's surprise victory at Euro 2004, playing in all five matches in Portugal and supplying the corner which resulted in Angelos Haristeas' headed winner in the Final.

    Very much a jack of all trades, he has the versatility to assume a holding role, play as a conventional playmaker or take up a position on either flank. Technically assured, he is a good passer of the ball, shoots powerfully and is incredibly industrious as well. Takes a large proportion of Pana's set-pieces.

    Capped 47 times by Greece, he is a product of the Panathinaikos youth system, making his debut for them back in 1995. Thanks to Euro 2004, he was courted by a number of clubs in England, Spain and Italy, but chose to remain loyal to Panathinaikos.

    The Weak Link - Goalscoring

    On his day, the Polish international striker Emmanuel Olisadebe can be a real handful courtesy of his pace and power. However, he missed most of last season with a knee ligament injury and though he has made a full recovery, he remains more than a little rusty, not at all firing on all cylinders.

    The ex-Burnley man Dimitrios Papadopoulos enjoyed a prolific first season at Pana, scoring goals-a-plenty and breaking into the full Greek squad. But the 23-year-old is far from the finished article; his movement off the ball is not the best and consistency is a problem.

    Often Pana line up in a 4-5-1 with the Cyprirot striker Michalis Constantinou leading the line on his own. A battering ram type of front-man he mainly relies on his strength and durability but is not skilful enough to worry defenders at the highest level.

    The New Face - Rudolf Skacel

    Talented Czech international midfielder signed on loan from French side Olympique Marseille. Joined OM from Slavia Prague in September 2003 but never really settled in his new Mediterranean workplace, rarely showing the class he has in spades.

    An influential member of the Czech Under 21 side which won the European title back in 2002, his game is based on his deft touch on the ball, excellent vision and no little stamina. At his best operating in an attacking role wide on the left but can also play through the middle.

    Was not included in the Czech squad for Euro 2004 but has been called up by national coach Karel Bruckner for the qualifying campaign for World Cup 2006.

    The Coach - Itzhak Schum

    Pana fans have mixed feelings about their Israeli boss. Some regard him as a hero for leading the Athenian club to their first Greek league title in nine years; others are highly critical, slamming him for repeatedly using players out of position and his defensive tactics.

    Besides steering Maccabi Haifa to the 2002-03 Champions League, the 56-year-old has also coached Hapoel Kfar Saba, Hapoel Haifa, Beitar Tel Aviv and the Israeli Olympic team, as well as serving as an assistant with the national team.

    A former star midfielder for Israel, he won 53 caps for his country between 1969 and 1981, notably taking part in the 1970 World Cup finals and the 1976 Olympics Games in Montreal.

    Verdict: No hopers.

    PSV Eindhoven

  • Second in Dutch League
  • Champions League pedigree: Winners 1988

    PSV Eindhoven's Philip Cocu

    The Star Man - Philip Cocu

    Battle-hardened Dutch international who returned to PSV in the close season after a half-dozen years starring at the Nou Camp with Barcelona.

    Renowned for his versatility, he can play in virtually any midfield position, in central defence and on the left-wing. Never especially spectacular but has a great feel for the game and always gets the job done with a minimum of fuss.

    Started his career with De Graafschap and AZ Alkmaar, later moving on to Vitesse Arnhem and PSV in 1995. Made his full international debut in April 1996 against Germany and now has 82 caps.

    The Weak Link - The Attack

    To put it bluntly, the heart was ripped out of the PSV front-line this summer, with Danish winger Dennis Rommedahl moving to Charlton and left-wing wizard Arjen Robben and mercurial top scorer Mateja Kezman lured away by Chelsea.

    PSV look especially short of punch at the point of attack. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink - the player with the longest name in football - might wreak havoc in the Dutch league with his power in the air and physical strength but it takes more than a battering ram to open up defences in the Champions League.

    There must also be doubts as to whether Vennegoor's strike partner, Gerald Sibon can make the grade in Europe. After a mixed time in England with Sheffied Wednesday, he bounced back well at Heerenveen, earning himself a move to PSV this summer. But does he have the poise and class to prosper at a high level? Probably not.

    The New Face - Da Marcus Beasley

    Exciting American winger bought from Chicago Fire this summer and who should take over from the Chelsea-bound Arjen Robben on PSV's left-flank.

    An impressive figure in the USA team which reached the quarter-finals of the last World Cup, Beasley's unorthodox dribbling style, pace and fearlessness should serve him well in his first taste of the European big-time.

    Voted the best player at the Under 17 World Cup in New Zealand in 1999. Began with Chicago Fire in 2000.

    The Coach - Guus Hiddink

    Thoughtful, articulate Dutch boss who has been a success throughout his coaching career, notably masterminding PSV Eindhoven's triumph in the 1987-88 Champions' Cup and steering Holland and South Korea to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1998 and 2002 respectively.

    His work with South Koreans must go down as the highlight of his time in football, taking over a team of inexperienced unknowns and moulding them into a highly-organised, totally committed attacking unit.

    He certainly is a well-travelled boss, having also worked in Spain with Real Madrid, Valencia and Betis and Fenerbahce in Turkey. Rejoined PSV in the summer of 2002. Linked with the vacant German job following the resignation of Rudi Voller but it came to nought.

    Verdict: The draw has been relatively kind; Hiddink's side for the second round.


  • Norwegian champions
  • Champions League pedigree: Quarter-finalists 1997

    Rosenborg's Harald Brattbakk.

    The Star Man - Harald Brattbakk

    Excellent finisher, who in two spells and a decade leading the Rosenborg line has piled up over 150 domestic League goals. Pacy, intelligent and an ever-willing runner. Early in his career, critics thought he was too lightweight to be a success. They were wrong.

    At his most dangerous when bursting forward from deep positions or from the wings, especially the left. Now aged 33, he enjoyed his best night in Europe back in the 1996-97 season, scoring in Rosenborg's famous 2-1 win against AC Milan at the San Siro.

    Has also played for Kolstad and Bodo-Glimt in Norway and Celtic.

    The Weak Link - The back four

    Rosenborg's veteran central defenders Christer Basma (32) and Erik Hoftun (35) may have all the experience in the world and remain great competitors and strong in the air. However, their lack of mobility should have the alarm bells ringing. Coach Ola By Riise might bring in the quicker Vidar Riseth instead of one of them.

    High-energy right-back Roar Strand loves to get forward but at times his distribution lets him down. New left-back, the Swedish international Mickael Dorsin is a far more polished attacking force - not surprising for a former midfielder - though he needs to rebuild his confidence after failing to win a regular berth at French club Strasbourg and being left out of Sweden's Euro 2004 squad.

    The New Face - Thorstein Helstad

    The square-shouldered Norwegian national team striker recently agreed to return to his homeland after three years in Austrian football with Austria Wien. Cost Rosenborg only £450,000, which should prove a bargain.

    A front-man of no little pace, power and directness, he first made a name for himself at the Brann Bergen club in the 2000 season, topping the domestic scoring charts with 18 goals. Shortly afterwards, he said yes to an offer from Austria Wien, subsequently helping them claim the Austrian league title in 2003.

    Capped 14 times by Austria - with six goals to his account - the 27-year-old should be a fine foil for Brattbakk.

    The Coach - Ola By Riise

    Former Rosenborg assistant-coach who was appointed to replace Aage Hareide when the latter quit in the autumn of last year to take over the Norwegian national team.

    By Riise is nothing less than a Rosenborg legend, having starred in goal for the Trondheim club for 18 seasons (1977-95). He holds the record for appearances in the Norwegian First Division (346).

    Would have won many more than 25 senior caps for Norway if the ex-Tottenham keeper Erik Thorstvedt was not around at the same time.

    Verdict: Have surprised many an unsuspecting Champions League opponent but not this time.

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