Manchester United's Rooney and van Persie attend a training session at the Carrington training complex in Manchester

Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Stoke City

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  • Stoke City haven’t beaten Manchester United in any form of competition since 1993 when they won the first leg of a League Cup matchup.
  • Manchester United have their lowest league point total after eight matches (11) since 1989.
  • Stoke City have conceded just seven goals in their eight matches.

Manchester United look to get back on track as they host Stoke City at Old Trafford (10am ET, watch live on NBCSN or online via NBC Sports Live Extra). With the heat on David Moyes increasing with every disappointing result, the new United manager will have Robin van Persie back to call upon in front of goal.

A draw with Southampton last time out, coupled with defeats to West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool already on the books this season, have seen many question whether Moyes is the right man to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson.

The defending champions may be on their way to a climb back up the table thanks to some momentum from their 1-0 Champions League win over Real Sociedad midweek.  The Red Devils must get the results in the Premier League however – and fast – or pressure on Moyes could certainly bubble over.

While Mark Hughes’ side hasn’t been exactly flashy this season, their defensive record will bring a decent test for the Manchester United goalscorers.  They’ve conceded just seven goals this season, although Stoke have also only scored four.

This where it will be massively important for Moyes to call on van Persie, who has struggled with nagging injuries to start the season.  Knocks have caused the attacking talisman to miss a Premier League match and a Champions League tie, and he was pushed to the substitutes bench for a second league match.

The return of van Persie plus the excellent form of Wayne Rooney is definitely a sign of better times to come.  The mercurial English star has three goals and an assist in his last five league matches, and did most of the work on the play that resulted in Sociedad’s early own goal midweek.

Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley will most likely not feature for Manchester United due to injuries, and Geoff Cameron is a doubt for Stoke with a calf injury that forced him to miss last week’s match against West Brom. Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross is also a question mark, having been sick all week.

What they’re saying

David Moyes on Wayne Rooney: “It’s been great working with Wayne because he’s an excellent footballer. I’ve said from day one he’s been great. He had a very good game in midweek. We want that form to continue. We want him to keep scoring goals. He is a big plus for us just now. I don’t think it’s me or anyone else. It’s Wayne Rooney. He had to make sure he was the best he could be and he’s done that. He’s in good nick, his talent is unquestionable. He’s physically very good, mentally in a good place and his form has been good.”

Mark Hughes on playing at Old Trafford: “West Brom have gone there and won, so it’s more than possible that we can get a positive result. We’re playing well away from home, arguably slightly better away from home than we are at home, so if we can take our performance level and keep it high we can go there and be positive. You can’t go to Old Trafford and be apprehensive about what’s ahead of you. You have to be positive and have a go. Our expectations and the expectations of our fans are high. We want to go there and put in a positive performance, if we do can that then let’s see what happens.”

Ryan Giggs on Manchester United form: “We’ve got the feeling that, somewhere along the line, we are going to score a load of goals. We have created a lot, especially in the last couple of games, whereas perhaps, before that, we didn’t.  That’s encouraging and, with the quality we have got on the pitch, we should be scoring more goals. Why we’re not, I don’t know, we are just going through one of those stages where we are not scoring enough goals. The lads at the back are doing a really good job, so hopefully it will come.”


As much as Hughes has a point about teams not being as fearful of Old Trafford as they have been, it’s still a fortress for United.  The win midweek will provide them with a bit of confidence, and it’s hard to argue with the duo of Rooney and van Persie at this point.

Something Moyes & co. seriously  need to improve on is playing with a 1-goal lead.  Many times this season the club has had chances to extend an early lead, only to fail and see it come back to haunt them later.  This is something they failed to do against Southampton, and even against Real Sociedad midweek en route to a nervy win.

Nobody saw the West Brom win or Southampton draw coming, but it’s even harder to forsee yet another slipup.  A win for the home side is in the cards, although another tensely close victory would probably do little to ease the pressure on Moyes.  They’ll need to win confidently and convincingly to silence the doubters for the next 7 days.

Arsenal ready to “play for our lives” vs. Olympiakos to remain in UCL

Alexis Sanchez
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Following their 3-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday, Arsenal know what they must do in two weeks time at Olympiakos.

Win by two goals or more and they’re in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the 16th straight.

[ MORE: How can Arsenal make last 16? ]

Anything less means Arsene Wenger‘s side will crash out of the UCL and will be competing in the last 32 of the Europa League when European play restarts in 2016.

It’s a simple equation but don’t underestimate how hard the Gunners have battled to put themselves in this situation. After losing both of their opening Group F games at Zagreb and then at home against Olympiakos, they looked dead and buried.

Now, they have a chance to advance.

“The team knew it was a very important day today – everyone had to turn up and they did. Now we’re going to play for our lives [against Olympiakos],” Arsenal right back Hector Bellerin said. “This was an important test for us, to be alive in the Champions League. The team responded very well. The team is showing we have got a lot of quality, a lot of creativity. When we have all our players back, we’re going to be up there.”

Wenger’s men have been in these kind of situations in the UCL before, but usually in the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: Chelsea hammer Tel Aviv, face tricky final day ]

In each of the past five seasons they’ve fallen at the last 16 hurdle but often that exit has come after after putting themselves in perilous situations from dreadful displays in the first legs and then nearly clawing things back in the second legs. Last season they lost to AS Monaco 3-1 at home in the first leg and won 2-0 away, going out on away goals. The season before that they lost 2-0 at home to Bayern Munich in the first leg but drew 1-1 away from home in the second leg and battled hard in Bavaria.

Simply put, Wenger’s men have been in this kind of “do or die” situation many times in the UCL over the past few seasons. It’s all about one game in Greece in two weeks. Wenger knows it as he spoke following their win over Zagreb which set up the tantalizing encounter in Athens on Dec. 9.

“It promises to be a very interesting game [against Olympiakos], but at least we have a chance,” Wenger said. “I think Mesut Ozil had an outstanding first half, he has got the taste for scoring now. I have never seen Ozil in the box so many times as in the last five or six games. The Europa League is not the target – let us give everything to remain in the Champions League.”

How can Arsenal qualify for last 16 of Champions League?

Arsene Wenger, Arsenal FC
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Heading into the their final UEFA Champions League Group F game, the Gunners are still alive. Just.

Arsenal beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium in London on Tuesday to keep their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League alive for the 16th straight season.

[ MORE: Champions League standings

So, here’s what Arsene Wenger‘s men must do in their final Group F game in two weeks time in Greece to qualify and what other results will mean for the Premier League side.

  • An Arsenal win by a two-goal margin will see Arsenal finish level on points but finish above Olympiakos by virtue of having better goal different in their head-to-head encounters. Hence sealing a spot in the last 16
  • An Arsenal win by a one-goal margin, a draw or a defeat will see Arsenal eliminated and Olympiakos qualify for last 16
  • The Gunners have already sealed at least a Europa League spot regardless of what happens in Athens

There are your scenarios for Arsenal as it’s pretty simple to break it down: Win by two goals and they’re Champions League dream lives on in the last 16.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

Anything else and it’s a spot of Thursday night soccer in the last 32 of the Europa League for Wenger’s men.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv 0-4 Chelsea: Blues go atop Group G

during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC and Chelsea FC at Sammy Ofer Stadium on November 24, 2015 in Haifa, Israel.
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Chelsea scored thee second-half goals against a ten-man Maccabi side, easing to a 4-0 win in Tel-Aviv tonight.

With the win and Porto’s loss, the Blues now sit atop Group G in the UEFA Champions League, in need of one point from their final match to advance.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

The match got off to a bit of a shaky start for Chelsea, as Tel-Aviv created some early offense on the counter-attack. However, the Blues stuck in after the opening minutes and gained control of the play.

After dominating possession, Chelsea broke through in the 20th minute through Gary Cahill. Willian whipped in a corner kick which Cahill headed on goal, but Predrag Rajkovic made a brilliant save for Tel-Aviv. However, the save hit the post and rolled right back to Cahill, who had an easy tap-in for the goal.

The pitch continued to be tilted in favor of Chelsea, and Tel-Aviv’s chances of a comeback took a huge hit when Tal Ben Haim was sent off in the 40th minute. The former Chelsea man took a wild hack at the legs of Diego Costa, giving the referee an easy decision to show a straight red. It was another case of Costa getting under the skin of his opposition, as Ben Haim lost his cool and made a reckless challenge.

Despite being down to ten men, the hosts didn’t fold in the second half and tried to steal a goal on the counter. After a string of fine saves from Rajkovic to keep Tel-Aviv alive, Asmir Begovic had to come up with a save of his own to keep Chelsea ahead. Eran Zahavi found himself free on the break and fired a shot to the far post, but Begovic just got his fingertips on the ball to hold the lead.

[ RELATED: Zlatan hoping to impress in UCL return to Malmo ]

A bit of bad news came for Chelsea in the 72nd minute, as John Terry went down after getting tangled up in a challenge. The captain looked to be in a lot of pain, as he was stretchered off and replaced by Kurt Zouma.

On the first touch of the ball after Terry’s substitution, Chelsea took a 2-0 lead from a Willian free kick. From his favorite spot at the corner of the box, the Brazilian curled home a set piece to the near post. It was his sixth goal of the season, all of which have come from free kicks in almost the exact same location.

Less than five minutes later, Oscar made it 3-0 for Chelsea. Baba Rahman played in a cross from the left wing as Oscar headed home from close range, officially sealing the points for Jose Mourinho’s men.

Substitute Kurt Zouma would add a fourth for Chelsea in stoppage time, grabbing another headed goal for the Blues in a comfortable yet vital win.

Arsenal 3-0 Dinamo Zagreb: Gunners keep last 16 dreams alive

Alexis Sanchez
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Arsenal eased past Dinamo Zagreb in their penultimate game of UEFA Champions Group F play on Tuesday as two goals from Alexis Sanchez and another from Mesut Ozil did the damage.

[ MORE: Arsenal to “play for our lives” ]

Arsene Wenger‘s side now sit in third place on six points in Group F and travel to Olympiakos — who currently sit in second spot on nine points — on the final matchday on Dec. 9 where they will need a win by two goals or more to make the last 16 of the UCL for the 16th straight season.

[ MORE: How can Arsenal qualify? ]

The Gunners came flying out of the traps and were 2-0 up inside the first 32 minutes. First up Sanchez got free on the left and curled in a beautiful cross which found the onrushing Ozil who stooped and headed home. 1-0 to the Arsenal.

Moments later it was 2-0 as Nacho Monreal intercepted a pass on the edge of Zagreb’s box and slotted the ball to Sanchez who finished easily to send Wenger’s men into halftime with a healthy lead.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]

In the second half Arsenal were hungry for more goals as Eduardo made a good stop from Santi Cazorla‘s shot and then palmed away Olivier Giroud‘s header from the rebound.

To their credit the Croatian outfit stuck to the task and Alexandru Matel went close with an effort but Arsenal always looked dangerous on the break as Costa Rican forward Joel Campbell volleyed an effort just wide.

[ MORE: Champions League standings

Arsenal saw out the game with minimum fuss as Sanchez added another in the 69th minute when Campbell set him up neatly and the Chilean grabbed his second and Arsenal’s third of the game to make it 3-0.

That’s how the game finished as the Gunners now face a showdown in Athens in two weeks as their place in the UCL’s last 16 hangs in the balance.