Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sami Khedira a doubt for World Cup after suffering horror knee injury

Germany's Sami Khedira reacts after injuring his knee during their international friendly soccer match against Italy at the San Siro last night

Germany and Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira's World Cup hopes hang in the balance after he was ruled out for around six months with a torn cruciate ligament suffered in Friday's 1-1 draw against Italy, team doctors said today.

Khedira, who tore another ligament in his right knee during the incident, will undergo surgery with the midfielder's World Cup participation now in the balance.
"He will need to be operated on but we are hopeful he could be fit in time for the World Cup," team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Mueller-Wohlfahrt said.
Germany take on England at Wembley in another friendly international on Tuesday.
"This is a bitter setback for Sami. But he always thinks positively and that is why I am optimistic he will be ready and fit when the World Cup starts," coach Joachim Loew said.
Irish Independent

Arsenal FC could sign Alexandre Pato in January - report

Arsenal will reportedly make a January move for Corinthians striker Alexandre Pato.

Alexandre Pato
Pato was linked with Chelsea before he left AC Milan in January 2013 and returned to South America, but Corinthians director Roberto de Andrade earlier this month opened the door for a potential move in the New Year.

And according to the Sunday Express, Wenger is ready to make a move for the 24-year-old when the transfer window reopens.

According to Sunday's report, Pato will be available for £10 million, or could join the Gunners on loan.

Pato, who has also been linked with Tottenham, has previously stated that a move to the Premier League is of interest to him, and earlier this month when discussing the Brazil international’s future, De Andrade told Radio Bandeirantes: "Considering his value, I think it's hard that he moves to another Brazilian club.

"If those two clubs [Arsenal and Tottenham] are interested in Pato, we don't rule out selling him in the winter transfer market."

Pato recently revealed that Spurs made an approach for him during the summer, telling Brazilian television: "Tottenham had called Corinthians to ask for my transfer.

"I sat at the table with the club and my agent and I decided I wanted to stay."
CrunchSports

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dzeko to Arsenal FC? Aogo to Liverpool FC? Aguero to FC Barcelona?

Edin Dzeko
- Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko is the latest player on Arsenal's January transfer hit-list, according to the Daily Mirror.

- Liverpool are lining up a bid for Hamburg defender Dennis Aogo after learning that the German international could be available for as little as £2.5m, according to the Daily Express.

- Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has revealed he tried to sign Manchester United playmaker Shinji Kagawa last year while he was in charge of Real Madrid.

Mourinho was quoted by Japanese publication Shukan Bunshun as saying about why the transfer didn't happen: "It was not being able to always play at Real Madrid. My first choice at the time was Mesut Ozil. I told him honestly without hiding it."

- Barcelona are ready to rekindle their interest in Manchester City's Sergio Aguero after being encouraged to pursue the striker by Argentina teammate Lionel Messi, according to the Daily Express.

- Jackson Martinez has revealed that he is prepared to leave Porto for a bigger club, and according to the Daily Star, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham are interested in his services.

- Manchester United manager David Moyes is weighing up a sensational move for Andres Iniesta after being alerted to a rift between the star midfielder and his Barcelona bosses, according to the Daily Mail.
CrunchSports

WFT


International friendly: England come unstuck against Chile at Wembley

England suffered defeat in their first preparatory game for the 2014 World Cup, with Alexis Sanchez earning Chile a 2-0 win at Wembley.
Alexis Sanchez
A Three Lions line-up which included debutants Fraser Forster, Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez made a sluggish start and fell behind inside seven minutes on Friday night.
As the hosts failed to clear their lines, Eugenio Mena sent over a teasing delivery from the left and in-form Sanchez got across Leighton Baines to divert a stooping header into the bottom corner.
The Barcelona forward ended any hope England had of getting back into the game in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage-time as he was freed in space and delicately dinked the ball over the onrushing Forster.

Surged

James Milner drilled an early cross in to the Chile box that was cleared off the line, as England tried to get on the front foot, but the Wembley crowd were left scratching their heads moments later.
Chile surged forward on the counter, Gary Cahill put his body on the line to block a shot from Eduardo Vargas but the danger had not passed.
The visitors moved the ball out to Mena on the left, Cahill missed the full-back's cross and Sanchez sneaked in front of Baines to head beyond Forster.
Jorge Sampaoli rejoiced while Roy Hodgson sat despondent.
Phil Jones frayed the England manager's nerves further with a pass that Chile capitalised on. Jean Beausejour gained a yard on his marker but Forster saved well.
Frank Lampard raised spirits briefly with a fierce long-range free-kick.
Claudio Bravo's theatrical save made the shot look better than it was, however, and the momentary lift the crowd experienced soon made way for more groans.
England could not get Chile off the ball. Gary Medel in particular was having a superb game, passing the ball out of danger through his wing-backs whenever England applied pressure.
Wayne Rooney was the next person to yell at his own team-mates.
Defence remained England's weakest point. Cahill somehow managed to lose the 5ft 7in Medel, but he put his free header over.
Break
Chile had one over on the break on the half hour, but Forster came out to usher Beausejour wide.
Rodriguez's limp shot trickled in to Bravo's arms, summing up England's first half.
England were all at sea just before the break, with Sanchez breaking through twice, although Lallana pierced the Chile defence only to be thwarted with a last-ditch tackle.
A few boos rang out at half-time.
England's issues continued after the restart. Baines failed to find James Milner with a simple 10-metre pass from a corner, which did not go down well with the home fans.
The biggest cheer of the night came when Andros Townsend came on for Rodriguez on the hour.
The Tottenham winger had an immediate impact, finding Jack Wilshere, who was fouled on the edge of the box by Medel.
The home crowd held their breath as Baines stepped up to take the free-kick, but he found the wall.
Jermain Defoe, Tom Cleverley, Ross Barkley and Jordan Henderson came on, but they had little impact. Chile were still running the show. Even with 10 England players camped out in their half, they still passed the ball without fear as their fans chanted "Ole!".
And Sanchez hammered the final nail in to England's coffin in injury time when he lifted the ball over Forster after a mix-up at the back.
SkySports

France v Ukraine: French papers ask if this team is 'the worst in history' after World Cup playoff first leg defeat

The French media and public are hugely critical of the national team, with 89.7% of readers of Le Parisien believing France will not qualify for World Cup 2014 in Brazil.

Laurent Koscielny is shown the red card during France's 2-0 defeat to Ukraine
The French papers have attacked the "ineptitude" of the national football team after Les Bleus suffered a 2-0 defeat in Kiev against Ukraine in the first leg of their World Cup playoff.
There seemed to be little expectation going into the match against a team ranked, as Le Monde noted, "alongside France by Fifa", and the resignation among the media shows a lack of belief that the deficit can be turned around in Tuesday's return leg.
In a piece headline "Les Bleus in a nightmare", L'Equipe said there will always be hope, "but in terms of what we saw on riday night, reverse would be almost miraculous. The French would do well just to draw the second leg."
The article went on to ask if this performance was "the worst in history". "Most disturbing was that the influence of France Ribery was reduced to nothing. His teammates did not take advantage of the tight marking which he faced all match."
To make matters worse, France will have to do without Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny for the second leg, after he was sent off in the closing stages. "A real black evening to forget," concluded L'Equipe.
Le Monde seemed to place the blame on the Premier League players. "Didier Deschamps opted for no fewer than seven residents of the England 'elite' players. It was supposed to be a device to make the difference from the word go, with Samir Nasri as the playmaker." The team selection did not work, the article did not need to point out.
Le Monde saw little reason for optimism, with France due to host Euro 2016. "The task is very complicated at the Stade de France. Ukraine is a team that travel well, and France will have to blow up one of Europe's tightest defences to book their plane tickets to Brazil. Otherwise, they will prepare for two and a half years of friendly matches as the only prospect of Euro 2016. As host country, they are automatically qualified and therefore exempt from qualifiers."
The potentially disastrous defeat came two days before the 20th anniversary of one of France's most famous losses. "For France, present at the finals of international competitions since 1996, lurks the spectre of the famous elimination against Bulgaria [in 1993]," the night that sparked the reinvention of French football that would lead to triumph at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
The final word to the French public, who were posed the following question by Le Parisien: Do you believe France will qualify for the World Cup. 15,810 votes have been cast - 89.7% have said no.
The Telegraph

Falling Apart

Ukraine 2-0 France: Zozulya and Yarmolenko leave les Bleus with a mountain to climb

Second-half goals from Roman Zozulya and Andriy Yarmolenko saw Ukraine stun France 2-0 in their World Cup playoff first leg in Kiev on Friday. 

Second-half goals from the home side- the latter from the penalty spot - stunned Didier Deschamps' side in Kiev and put Mikhailo Formenko's charges on the brink of the World Cup.

Zozulya's well-taken finish and Yarmolenko's late penalty condemned the lackluster Bleus to defeat and left Franck Ribery and company with a mountain to climb to reach the finals next summer, especially after Laurent Koscielny was sent off late on.

Mikhail Fomenko's men went into the game having never beaten France before, but having secured their place in the playoffs after finishing just a point behind England in Group H.

Only world and European champion Spain prevented France from automatically qualifying for next year's showpiece in Brazil.

However, it was the supposed underdog Ukraine which dictated play in a tight encounter, with striker Zozulya giving the team the lead midway through the second half.

The home side wrapped up the win with a penalty from Yarmolenko seven minutes from time, before Laurent Koscielny and Olexandr Kucher both saw red as the two sides ended the game with 10 men.

Newcastle United striker Loic Remy made his first start in a competitive match for France since October 2011, while captain Hugo Lloris was also included in Didier Deschamps' starting XI, having not played since being knocked unconscious in Tottenham's Premier League draw with Everton earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Ukraine made five changes from the side that beat San Marino 8-0 in the final group-stage game, Dnipro striker Zozulya leading the line in front of attacking midfielder Edmar.

Both sides created chances early on, with Olivier Giroud seeing his header comfortably saved by Andriy Pyatov, before Yarmolenko had the home team's first effort on goal with a low shot that forced Lloris into action.

But from there, opportunities proved to be rare in what was a tense first half, although Ukraine wasted a good chance to take the lead when Edmar headed narrowly wide from close range just before the half-hour mark.

France began to exert more control in the opening forays of the second half, although Ukraine remained a threat on the counter, with defender Artem Fedetskiy shooting just over from long range.

It was Fomenko's men who finally broke the deadlock after 61 minutes when Zozulya's effort squirmed under Lloris and over the line to delight the home crowd at the Olympic Stadium.

Deschamps' men responded well, Samir Nasri being denied by Pyatov following Giroud's through ball, before Paul Pogba saw his low effort easily handled by the Ukraine shot stopper.

France continued to search for an equalizer and a much-needed away goal as the contest headed towards its conclusion, but Yarmolenko made the task even harder when he converted from the spot after Arsenal defender Koscielny was ruled to have bundled over Zozulya in the area.

Koscielny's miserable night was completed when he was dismissed for an off-the-ball fracas with Kucher and, although the latter was also sent off soon after for a second bookable offense, it is the 1998 world champion which has a mountain to climb ahead of the second leg at Stade de France on Tuesday.
Goal.com

Balotelli with cerebro


Friday, November 15, 2013

Ronaldo 1-0 Zlatan: Portugal's star man lands the first blow

The Real Madrid star scored the only goal in Lisbon to leave Ibrahimovic and the Swedes facing a tough task in Tuesday's second leg.

Ronaldo saves Seleccao from Scandinavian stalemate

It was billed as the battle of the big names, and at the halfway mark it is Cristiano Ronaldo who is poised to appear at the World Cup at the expense of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Real Madrid striker’s predatory instinct was the difference between the two men – and their respective nations – as a solitary late header in Lisbon gave Portugal a slender first-leg advantage over Sweden in their do-or-die World Cup play-off.

It was impossible for the game to really live up to the huge build-up it was given, especially given that so much of the hype was due to the very fact that both of the countries involved rely so heavily on one man. And, for long spells, the game did carry the demeanour of two sides lacking cohesion and structure as the star men were well marshalled.

However, the second half looked set to offer Portugal something more as they began to find space in around the Blagult back four, and sure enough it was Ronaldo who broke the deadlock. When Miguel Veloso found space on the left and delivered a cross in behind the defensive line, the main man was there on the end of it, getting in front of Martin Olsson to head home.

Ronaldo’s 63rd goal of 2013 may not yet be enough on its own, but it is a potentially vital goal in the outcome of the tie. Sweden now know that they need to score at least three goals to make one more Portuguese goal irrelevant. Many teams have overcome such a deficit before, but too many underdogs have considered beginning a second leg a goal behind to a better side as a fair trade only to find out it is not.

And on the evidence of Friday, Portugal are the better side. Zlatan will have to have one of his very best nights on Tuesday if Ronaldo is not to feature in Brazil next summer.
Goal.com



World Cup Play Offs Results


World Cup - Red faced France on brink as Ukraine triumph 2-0

World Cup play-off first leg, Kiev: Ukraine 2 (Zozulya 61’, Yarmolenko 82 pen) France 0

Eurosport - Ukraine v France - Konoplyanka and Debuchy
Ukraine took a giant stride to the World Cup in Brazil after goals from Roman Zozulya and Andriy Yarmolenko gave the home side a 2-0 victory over France in the opening leg.
A cagey first half saw few chances but Ukraine were the more hungry side after the break and a well worked goal was followed by a late penalty as Laurent Koscielny pulled down Zozulya and Yarmolenko slotted home.
France then spectacularly unravelled late on as Koscielny received a straight red for slapping Oleksandr Kucher.
And although Kucher was then sent off in the final minute for a second bookable offence, Ukraine held out for victory.
Eurosport

World Cup - Ronaldo heads Portugal closer to Brazil

World Cup qualifying play-off first leg, Estadio da Luz, Lisbon - Portugal 1 (Ronaldo 82) Sweden 0.

Eurosport - Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Sweden
Cristiano Ronaldo headed Portugal closer to the World Cup as they beat Sweden 1-0 in their play-off first leg in Lisbon.
Ronaldo met a Miguel Veloso cross with a diving header past Andreas Isaksson with eight minutes remaining, before hitting the crossbar with a second header shortly afterwards. The Real Madrid star edged his personal battle against Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, though in truth neither player lived up to their stellar billing.
In fact Ronaldo looked more likely to be sent off than score, and he cut a frustrated figure for most of the 90 minutes. He was booked for an overzealous challenge on Isaksson and could have seen a second yellow for his furious protests.
The first half started very brightly, with Joao Moutinho rounding Andreas Isaksson before hitting the ball into the side netting. A minute later and Johan Elmander could have given Sweden the lead, poking the ball wide on the volley when a firmer connection would surely have ended in a goal.
However, after the initial spark, the first half became an exercise in effective frustration by the Swedes. Ronaldo and Nani were largely nullified as Portugal racked up numerous corners without ever effectively testing out Isaksson. In fact, it was the Swedes that went close before the break, a Kallstrom free kick inches wide and Rui Patricio forced to palm away a Larsson drive.
Sweden finally suffered some panic at the start of the second half when a Bruno Alves cross caused panic in the box before Ronaldo fired over. However, from that moment on Ibrahimovic appeared to be left deliberately isolated as Erik Hamren looked to hold on for a draw to take back home.
Portugal did have the occasional half chance thereafter, Helder Postiga heading over and Nani having a shot saved at the near post but the Swedish defenders kept them out manfully until the late goal. All still to play for in Stockholm.
Eurosport

In Pictures: Beckham meets Neymar and friends at Brazil's Miami hotel

The former England, Manchester United, Real Madrid and AC Milan midfielder hooked up with Brazil's biggest stars as they prepare for Saturday's friendly in Florida.

He the man | David Luiz hasn't smiled this much since getting kicked by Rafael 
Friends reunited | Thiago Silva played alongside Beckham at PSG

David Beckham has clearly got plenty of time on his hands since retiring from football in May.

After exploring the possibility of starting up an MLS franchise of his own - rumored to be in Miami - he has now shown up at the Brazil team hotel in Miami.

Golden Boy meets Golden Balls | Neymar can't get enough Beckham


The Selecao are preparing for Saturday's friendly with Honduras at Sun Life Stadium, and with the pressure mounting ahead of next summer's World Cup, what better way to escape the glare of the public than by posing with football's most famous son?

Crossing the divide | Liverpool's Lucas poses with the Manchester United hero
It could be 'Sir' David Beckham very soon, with the former Manchester United and Real Madrid man named as a candidate on the Queen's New Year's Honors List.

It will be an opportunity for Beckham to meet old friend Prince William, who he has worked with on various charitable projects as well England's failed bid to host the World Cup in 2022.

Brazil has had no such concerns, of course, and will host football's showpiece event in June next year.
Center stage | Beckham stands out even in the most distinguished crowd 
Beckham will be back on British shores very soon, however. 'The Class of '92', a film chronicling Manchester United's golden generation of Giggs, Scholes, the Nevilles, Butt and, of course, Becks, will be released on December 1.
Goal.com

2013-11-10 EPL Manchester Utd v Arsenal MOTD & Sky HD

 
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Martinez alerts Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool

Martinez has been linked with Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool
Chelsea were heavily linked with Martinez in the summer, as were Tottenham. Liverpool are also reported to be interested in the 28-year-old, who has scored 34 goals in 40 games for the Portuguese side.

"The years are passing and one day I hope to make a good transfer," Martinez, who has a €40 million buy-out clause in his contract, said. "It clearly depends on Porto, a club that sells its players so well.

"Leaving or staying depends on Porto but I will only go if there is something concrete."

A move to west London is believed to be favoured by Martinez, and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was in Brussels on Thursday night to watch Belgium's friendly with Colombia - reportedly to run the rule over Martinez's international team-mate Radamel Falcao.

And Mourinho had the chance to watch Martinez in action when he came on as a 71st-minute substitute for Falcao.
Borussia Dortmund and Napoli have also shown interest in Martinez.
ESPN

Ronaldo takes on Ibrahimovic in European playoffs

Two of world football's biggest names will meet Friday in the playoffs to determine Europe's final four World Cup qualifiers.

Ronaldo
Ever since last month's draw pitted Portugal against Sweden, the matchup has been billed as a head-to-head between Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Ibrahimovic
It will take something special to budge them from the spotlight, but Iceland is attempting to do just that.
A Nordic nation better known for fishing and freezing temperatures than football, Iceland would become the least populous nation to play at a World Cup if it can get past Croatia.
"This is the most important game in the history of the Icelandic men's team," Iceland midfielder Olafur Ingi Skulason said.
In the other two-leg matches, it's Ukraine against France and Greece vs. Romania. The second legs take place on Tuesday, when the 13 qualifiers from Europe will be finalized.
Owning two of the biggest egos in football, Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic have dominated the build-up to the most anticipated of the four playoffs.
Both players are in supreme form, with Ronaldo having scored 16 goals in 13 league games for Real Madrid this season and Ibrahimovic netting a string of brilliant goals for Paris Saint-Germain in the French league and Champions League.
They both belong on world football's biggest stage, but one will not be making the trip to Brazil.
"With the squad and the individuals they have, Portugal is naturally the favorite," Ibrahimovic said in an interview with Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. "But we finished second in a group with Germany, which I consider the strongest squad in Europe, while they finished second in a group they should have won.
"So I think we deserve to go to Brazil more than they do."
In Sweden, local media have republished the famous picture of Ronaldo crying after Portugal's loss to Greece in the 2004 European Championship final, suggesting he might shed more tears next week.
"Let's hope he looks like that after Nov. 19," said Sweden defender Mikael Lustig, who will be tasked with marking a forward he describes as the "best football player in the world right now."
Portugal is at home for the first leg.
In Iceland, excitement is rising. Other sports organizations have changed their schedules to avoid clashing with one of biggest occasions in the history of Icelandic sport.
It has been a logistical slog to get the field prepared at the Laugardalsvollur national stadium, which has never hosted a match so late in the year, because of Iceland's unique climate.
Preparations started last week to get the field as game-ready as possible, with a special fabric placed over the grass with hot air blowing under the cloth. The forecast for Friday is 0 degrees C (32 degrees F) with sleet and snow, and referee Alberto Unidiano Mallenco will arrive a day earlier than planned to determine whether the field is playable due to the weather.
Win or lose on Friday, Icelanders will celebrate.
"I cannot say that we have been successful yet, but we've done pretty well, and it is great to go into two playoff games and have a chance to get to Brazil," said Iceland coach Lars Lagerback, who led Sweden and Nigeria at previous World Cups.
Trinidad and Tobago, with about 1.2 million inhabitants, is currently the least populous nation to qualify for the World Cup, in 2006. Iceland has about 320,000.
The Iceland match will mark the coaching debut of Croatia's 42-year-old Niko Kovac, who stepped up from the under-21 team after Igor Stimac was following the national team's failure to qualify directly for the World Cup.
France, which has reached two of the last four World Cup finals, has the highest profile of the eight countries remaining but must qualify from the playoffs for the second straight campaign.
Four years ago, the French got past Ireland because of an infamous handball by Thierry Henry in extra time, earning the striker and his team the ire of world football. They will be hoping for a more straightforward passage to the final tournament this time around, against a team it has never lost to in seven meetings.
For Franck Ribery, a contender for this year's world player of the year award and in the form of his life for Bayern Munich and France, missing the World Cup doesn't bare thinking about.
"You don't ask yourself that question. I don't want to think about it," Ribery said. "I want us to win and to qualify. After all, it's Brazil. It's the land of a football."
Mail.com




Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2013/11/13/3027995/ronaldo-takes-on-ibrahimovic-in.html#storylink=cpy

Transfer news round-up: Manchester United to make Andres Iniesta move; Clint Dempsey linked with Fulham return; AC Milan target Newcastle player

Andres Iniesta
Manchester United could be turning to Barcelona yet again in search of a midfielder, according to the Daily Mail. Having missed out on Cesc Fabregas (who stayed) and Thiago Alcantara (who went to Bayern Munich), David Moyes is apparently plotting an audacious raid for arguably the greatest midfielder of his generation - Andres Iniesta. It's rumoured the Spain midfielder has fallen out with with the bosses at the Nou Camp.


Clint Dempsey could be in for a shock return to Fulham. Having left Tottenham over the summer for Seattle Sounders, he could return to the Premier League on loan in January. Spurs reportedly have first refusal according to The Mirror, but with their wealth of options, a return to Craven Cottage seems more likely (if Fulham fans can forgive and forget that is). Aston Villa and Everton would also be interested.
Newcastle full-back Davide Santon has emerged as a target for AC Milan, according to the Daily Express. The struggling Italian side want to replace Ignazio Abate, who in turn has been linked with a switch to Arsenal.

Manchester City could find themselves in a battle with Napoli if they pursue their interest in 19-year-old Kurt Zouma. The Saint-Etienne centre-back has reportedly been targeted amid the ongoing injury problems of captain Vincent Kompany.

Liverpool placed a late bid in the summer for Diego Costa. The offer in the region of £20m was understood to have activated a release clause in the striker's contract, however he opted to remain with Atletico Madrid and ended up penning a new contract. Despite that, it's reported by TalkSPORT that suitors will be back in the summer, and should Liverpool renew their interest, they will face competition from Borussia Dortmund who see Costa as the ideal replacement for Bayern bound Robert Lewandowski.
The Independent

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger targets Karim Benzema, Edin Dzeko and Javier Hernández ahead of window

Leading strikers are in Gunners' sights as current front-man Olivier Giroud gets special treatment over crucial winter period.

Hot shots: Arsenal have their eye on Javier Hernandez, Edin Dzeko and Karim Benzema
Arsenal are monitoring Karim Benzema, Edin Dzeko and Javier Hernández in the hope of still making a major signing in January, with Olivier Giroud’s training schedule also being tailored to reduce the risk of injury.
Despite suffering occasional knee pain since the summer, Giroud has started every Premier League and Champions League game for Arsenal so far this season and is also now a regular in the France international squad.
With Nicklas Bendtner currently providing limited competition in the striker position, manager Arsène Wenger knows how reliant Arsenal have been this season on Giroud and it is understood that he has even now modified the 27-year-old’s individual training programme.
Giroud, as well as Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny, are with France on Friday night for their World Cup play-off against Ukraine and Wenger has noted that three of his key players are involved in potentially draining international fixtures.
The situation regarding Giroud is the main concern and, although he was excellent for Arsenal in their recent 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund, he looked more jaded against Manchester United on Sunday.
“He’s also playing game after game and hasn’t had a rest, so maybe he’s feeling a bit of fatigue,” said Koscielny.
“He’s very important for us – strong and always answers the call on the pitch. If you look at the games, he weighs enormously on the opposition’s defence.
"All the balls he wins are in the air with his back to goal.”
Wenger made attempts to recruit Gonzalo Higuaíín, Luis Suárez, Wayne Rooney and Demba Ba during the summer transfer window and, although Bendtner stayed, he would ideally still like to add a striker of proven quality in January.
The difficulty is that so few players of that status will be available in the next window.
Although Dzeko and Hernández have struggled for first-team opportunities this season, it is hard to imagine either Manchester City or Manchester United being willing to strengthen Arsenal mid-season.
Benzema has been more involved for Madrid but, with only 18 months remaining on his contract, there is still a sense that an offer of around £30 million would be seriously considered in January.
Wenger has stressed that he is not desperate to recruit players mid-season but, even if he cannot make a major signing, short-term alternatives will be pursued.
Fernando Llorente has also been on Arsenal’s radar, although Juventus have stressed that the Spain striker would not be released either permanently or on loan.
The Telegraph

Portugal v Sweden: Cristiano Ronaldo's World Cup battle with Zlatan Ibrahimovic eclipsed by Pepe's Fifa comments

Pepe claims there is Fifa bias against Portugal’s star man Cristiano Ronaldo as he prepares for World Cup play-off against Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden.

World class performers: Cristiano Ronaldo will take on Zlatan Ibrahimovic when Portugal meet Sweden
Cristiano Ronaldo’s duel with Zlatan Ibrahimovic to avoid becoming the best player to miss next summer’s World Cup has been overshadowed by claims by Portugal defender Pepe of Fifa bias against his country’s talisman..
Portugal versus Sweden — aka Ronaldo versus Zlatan — stands out as the most eye-catching of the two-legged European play-offs, which begin with the first-legs on Friday night, due to the prospect of one of world football’s aristocrats being forced to watch from home when the World Cup takes place in Brazil.
Real Madrid forward Ronaldo and Paris St-Germain striker Ibrahimovic are both expected to challenge Lionel Messi to become the recipient of this year’s Ballon d’Or — recognised as the prize for the globe’s most outstanding footballer of the year.
But with Fifa president Sepp Blatter ridiculing Ronaldo during a recent speaking engagement at the Oxford Union, Portugal centre-half Pepe claims Blatter’s comments have 'opened people’s eyes’ to alleged bias against the former Manchester United player.
“We know that with Ronaldo’s [goal scoring] figures, it was not normal that he had only won one Ballon d’Or, after having been to seven or eight galas,” Pepe said.
“But that just showed that lots of things happen in football. Now you [journalists] have to show what happens.
“It is unfair what is going on with Cristiano. I hope he can win the Ballon d’Or, but Blatter has opened up many peoples’ eyes.”
With Ronaldo repeatedly being overlooked in favour of Messi for the global individual honours, there is a sense of grievance in Portugal — and concern — that Blatter’s comments about the player could lead to the national team paying the price for the apparent friction between the two men.
When asked about Fifa, Blatter and Ronaldo, and how the issue may affect the outcome of the play-off against Portugal, Sweden coach Erik Hamren diplomatically sidestepped the hand grenade that had been tossed in his direction before insisting that Ibrahimovic was the most worthy candidate for the Ballon d’Or.
“I am only focused on my team, not issues involving Portugal, but for me, Zlatan is the number one,” Hamren said. “He is world class, he plays for Sweden and he is my captain, so of course he is my number one.
“I have actually just voted for my world player of the year, but you can wait until after the game before I say who it is.
“For Sweden, all of the lights are on Zlatan of course, but he is a world class player and I don’t think he minds too much. He is used to it, and the expectancy will be no problem for him.
“Of course, it is a battle between two world class players, but we need to be good as a team. Zlatan needs our support. If we play good as a team, he can be our match winner.”
Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo, who will face Sweden despite a foot problem, both go into the game having scored hat-tricks for Real and PSG respectively at the weekend.
But despite Ibrahimovic’s emergence over the past 12 months as the closest rival to Ronaldo and Messi at the summit of the game, Pepe insists there is no comparison between the Swede and Ronaldo.
“They are two great players, but nothing compares to what Cristiano does,” Pepe said. “He has unimaginable statistics and is the best in the world.
“I repeat, in this moment, there is no comparison.”
Sweden go into the game at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz having failed to record a victory against Portugal in their last seven attempts, a run dating back to 1984, and Hamren claims that Paulo Bento’s team are clear favourites to win the tie.
“Portugal are big favourites, for three reasons,” Hamren said. “Firstly, they have a better ranking than Sweden and secondly, they reached the semi-finals at Euro 2012 and came very close to reaching the final.
“They are also playing the first leg at home, so it is a big challenge for us, but even though Portugal are a world-class team, we went to Germany and came away with a draw, so I believe in my team.” 
The Telegraph