| FC Basel’s players enjoy a bicycle ride in Basel, on Monday. (AFP) |
Berne: Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has told his players to watch out for Napoli’s quick-fire counter-attacks, when the two high-flying sides meet at the Emirates Stadium, in a Champions League Group F match, on Tuesday.
Wenger learnt a lot about the Italians when they drew 2-2 in a pre-season tournament and is also very familiar with their manager Rafael Benitez from the Spaniard’s time managing in the Premier League with Chelsea and Liverpool.
Napoli are unbeaten in all competitions under Benitez, who was appointed in May, and Wenger has identified the Italian side’s breakaways as their big strength and earmarked playmaker Lorenzo Insigne as key to that threat.
“He is mobile, he is not tall but quick and very good in the transition from defence to attack,” Wenger said. “He is a good dribbler as well and is an intelligent mover. That makes him an interesting prospect.
“That’s what struck me as well in the (pre-season) Emirates Cup — when they win the ball they come out very quickly with (Jose) Callejon, (Marek) Hamsik, Insigne and (Gonzalo) Higuain, (who) come out like bombs all the time they win the ball.
“The transition from our side from offence to defence will have to be very quick.”
For that to happen, Mesut Ozil has to play a key role in Arsenal’s midfield.
Barcelona would be eyeing revenge against Celtic after the latter emerged victorious at home in the group stage last season.
Barcelona even struggled at home against the Scottish side, scoring late for a 2-1 win at Camp Nou. Barca’s record of just two wins from six matches in Scotland suggests this will be no pushover, despite the huge gulf in class in the squads.
“I think it will be very unprofessional of them if they didn’t think that we were a threat,” Celtic playmaker Kris Commons said.
Celtic’s chances of causing another upset improved when Messi was ruled out of the match because of a right thigh injury that will sideline the Argentina forward for three weeks. “The team is completely different with him," Barcelona defender Adriano said.
In the middle of a three-match domestic ban, maverick Italy striker Mario Balotelli is available for AC Milan in Amsterdam and could be partnered up front with fit-again Stephan El Shaarawy.
It will give some potency to a Milan side that has started the season poorly, with its 2-0 win over Celtic two weeks ago only secured through goals in the final eight minutes. Mattia De Sciglio, Kaka, Giampaolo Pazzini and Matias Silvestre are still out injured.
Ajax endured a tough start to the group, losing 4-0 at Barca and becoming the latest team to be run ragged by Messi as he scored a hat-trick at Camp Nou. The Dutch side will also be the underdog against Milan, too, with Kolbeinn Sigthorsson saying the Italians are “naturally a level — or two — higher as a competitor”. (Reuters)