The draw for the Champions League Round of Sixteen is made at Lunchtime today and a quick recap of possible opponents is:
Celtic, PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Internazionale, Lille, Real Madrid, AS Roma
We all know who we would like (Celtic, Lille or PSV) because they are the weaker of the teams but in all likelihood we will draw Barcelona.
On the subject of the Catalans, here is one for the conspiracy theorist. A spokesman for the Club has vigorously denied the contents of an article that appeared in the French newspaper Le Monde reporting that Real Betis, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia had used the peculiar talents of Doctor Eufemanio Fuentes. This is the same Eufemanio Fuentes who is currently being investigated for a possible doping scandal in the cycling world. Basing its article on ‘confidential handwritten documents’ from the good Doctor, Le Monde suggests that Fuentes concocted ‘special preparations’ for the four teams for last season that had passed unnoticed by the Spanish authorities during their investigation into his cycling exploits. Dr Fuentes would not comment on the report other than stating that he had already received a number of death threats. The paper stated that highlighted in the paperwork is the account of Dr Fuentes’ interventions for Barcelona Football Club as it prepared for the Champions League last season. Perhaps FIFA or UEFA could make someone read the good Doctors notes one Sunday afternoon and see if there is anything worth following up? And yes, the timing of me reporting this to you is entirely coincidental and in no way contrived to coincide with today’s draw…
Back to Arsenal news and a fair bit of catching up to do. Firstly, somewhat bizarrely Theo Walcott was named Young Sports Personality Of The Year. Why? I mean no disrespect to Master Walcott but the only thing of note in 2006 was signing for Arsenal. Going to the World Cup may have been a good experience for the lad but he never made it to the pitch. It says more for the dearth of media coverage given to the next generation of athletes that Theo won the award for achieving nothing.
On the transfer front, pantomine season is upon us. Whilst the Scottish papers went mad reporting a £700k bid by Celtic for Anthony Stokes, “Oh yes they did!“, according to Le Boss, “Oh no they didn’t“. Meanwhile Fairy Godmother Roy Keane wants Stokes to join him at sleeping giants, Sunderland. Completing the trio of Ugly Sisters courting Prince Charming are Wolves. Sensibly, Arsene has decided he is not going to sell Stokes or Nicklas Bendtner, who has latterly been linked to AC Milan, Lyon and Birmingham City. Noticeably absent from the list of who will and will not be leaving is Arturo Lupoli, currently banging them in for Derby and this week the Italian Under 21’s. Lupoli has always hinted that he would like to return to play in Italy at some point in his career and is being linked with the Serie A giants Empoli, Palermo and Fiorentina. Or Liverpool depending on which paper you read.
On the move into The Emirates are supposedly Glenn Johnson (why????) and Sevilla’s Antonio Puerta (who could be off to Manchester United or Chelsea as well as any number of Spanish clubs) whilst there will no doubt be a clamour for the services for Nigel Reo-Hokey Cokey who it appears is leaving those chirpy Cockernees at Upton Park for pastures new in January.
Meanwhile, Mrs Wenger will be witholding treats from young Arsene for a week and docking his pocket money after the FA fined him for being “overly aggressive” towards Alan Pardew. Picking up the footballing equivalent of an ASBO, and given his previous in April for attempting to pick a fight with Tony Soprano, a £10k fine is getting off lightly some might say. However, I am sure that once Mrs Wenger puts Arsene through an Anger Management Course, there will be no need for the Beaks to tell him off ever again. Pardew’s personal hearing is yet to come up but it will be interesting to see if West Ham are prepared to defend him as vigorously as they once were.
Back tomorrow with a Portsmouth preview.