Arsenal plan guard of honor for Manchester United – but how will they receive Robin van Persie?

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When Manchester United heads to the Emirates for Sunday’s match-up with Arsenal, the Premier League champions will receive a guard of honor from Arsene Wenger’s men.

There had been murmurings that some Arsenal supporters could be inclined to turn their backs in protest when the teams emerge from the tunnel. Wenger, however, insists the club will follow tradition. “When you work somewhere abroad, you have to respect the culture of the country. That is part of the tradition of English football and I want that to be respected,” Wenger said.

While Wenger’s influence on the guard of honor will likely be respected by the Arsenal faithful (after all, United provided the same honor to the Gunners at Old Trafford in 2002), the reception that Robin van Persie will receive is another issue entirely. The Dutchman could be in line for a tough day at the Emirates, where many supporters are still reeling from the striker’s decision to leave the club last summer in favor of a £24m move to Old Trafford.

Although he used standoffish, robotic language when referring to van Persie, Wenger nevertheless urged supporters to respect the former Arsenal man. “We respect Robin van Persie like every other player who has left us and came back to the Emirates,” said Wenger. “I want the player to be respected like everybody else. I always said that for every single player who left, even some of them in much more controversy than Robin van Persie.”

Sir Alex Ferguson, on the other hand, is taking a very Fergie-esque look at the situation. “I don’t bother about it, and I don’t think Robin should bother about it either,” said Ferguson. “For Arsenal to have one of their players go to their biggest rivals of the last 20 years doesn’t sit well with their fans, nor Arsene (Wenger) for that matter.

“But it does happen. You just have to move on.”

When it comes to the actual footballing aspect of Sunday’s game, ‘move on’ is exactly what the Gunners must do if they are to prevail in their quest for a Top 4 finish. With United having already secured the Premier League title, many believe Arsenal has hit the lottery as Ferguson may be inclined to name a reduced lineup. But Wenger insists that “no matter in what state Man United will be, we will need a great performance to beat them and that’s what we want to focus on.”

With 4th place Chelsea one point behind and 5th place Tottenham two points back – both with a game in hand – a victory on Sunday is crucial for Arsenal’s Champions League aspirations.

 

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.