Football European round-up: Weah blow for Arsenal

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The Independent Online
Arsenal's well-publicised intention of signing the Liberian George Weah from Milan at the end of the season was put in doubt yesterday when the striker revealed that the Italian giants had no plans to release him.

The club's coach, Arrigo Sacchi, had been reported as saying after the team's poor performance in the European Champions' League that he would put several players up for sale at the end of the season. But Weah said yesterday: "I'm not in that list - I'm not lined up for sale. I'll stay at Milan at the end of the season - I'm not moving out."

Such is Milan's dependence on Weah that they were sending a private jet to bring him back to Italy early today after his African Nations' Cup game for Liberia in the 1-1 draw against Tanzania yesterday. Weah may be asked to play the second half at Perugia where Milan should prove too strong with Christophe Dugarry and Marco Simone in attack. Perugia will look to their Brazilian striker, Muller, to provide their cutting edge.

Fiorentina face a much stiffer task against the Serie A leaders, Juventus, and their coach, Claudio Ranieri, is understandably apprehensive about the match. The home game comes at a delicate time for Fiorentina, who were surprisingly beaten 2-1 by the third-from-bottom team, Verona, last Sunday, and are now in 11th place, 13 points behind Juventus.

"This is my most difficult game since I've been at Fiorentina. We're at a turning point, it's now or never," Ranieri said.

Bitter rivalry between Juventus and Fiorentina has in the past led to litigation between prominent Fiorentina fans, such as the film director Franco Zeffirelli, and the former Juventus president, Giampiero Boniperti, and it will be equally serious today.

Ranieri seems likely to opt for a 4-4-2 formation with the ex-Everton winger Andrei Kanchelskis partnering the captain, Gabriel Batistuta of Argentina, in attack. Sweden's Stefan Schwarz, Portugal's Rui Costa, Sandro Cois and Giovanni Piacentini form a talented midfield. Juventus travel south with an almost full-strength squad, missing only two long- term injury victims - the Croat striker Alen Boksic and the midfielder Antonio Conte.

In Spain, Bobby Robson, the Barcelona manager linked with Blackburn, finds himself under even more pressure after his side's 2-0 defeat against Real Sociedad on Thursday. Barcelona are now six points behind Real Madrid and must win their tricky home game against Real Zaragoza today. The fixture has a reputation of being high-scoring and gives Zaragoza the chance to avenge the 5-3 defeat earlier this season.