Ferguson hails English strength in Champions' League

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The Independent Football

Arsenal and Tottenham having given his Manchester United side – and Chelsea – hard acts to follow in the Champions' League this week, Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted with good reason that English clubs are still very much a force in European competition. The absence of Premier League representation at the semi-final stage last season caused some to question whether an era had come to end.

"It's an unfair assessment, I think," Ferguson said ahead of Wednesday's tie at Marseille. "Arsenal must have a chance after that result at home. It won't be an easy task but [Gerard] Pique being out is a loss. Barcelona are not invincible, there's a way to play against them. I think Europe is aware of English football strength. The Premier League is a great league now. With Tottenham improving, they have replaced Liverpool this season. I don't think they will only win [against Milan], I think they will win comfortably."

He would presumably share the same opinion of Chelsea, who play in Copenhagen on Tuesday. With Ferguson likely to take their English title away from them in the next three months, Roman Abramovich's obsession with becoming champions of Europe for the first time can only have hardened.

Meanwhile, Liverpool and Manchester City will be fancied to go through in the Europa League despite deadly-dull first legs last week.

This week's European games

Champions' League:

Tuesday

Copenhagen v Chelsea (Sky Sports 2, 7.45)

The Danes, competing at this stage for the first time, are the team everyone wanted to draw, though Chelsea should note a good home record, including holding Barcelona.

Lyon v Real Madrid (Sky Sports 4, 7.45)

Another challenge for Jose Mourinho, as Real have been beaten at this stage for the past six seasons. But Lyon are trailing in France again.

Wednesday

Internazionale v Bayern Munich (Sky Sports 2, 7.45)

Leonardo has revived Inter since replacing Rafa Benitez but they will not find this repeat of last year's final easy, with Bayern apparently rediscovering some form.

Marseille v Manchester United (ITV1, 7.45)

Disappointing away from home domestically, United have an excellent recent record in Europe, which will be tested by Gabriel Heinze's boys in the Velodrome.

Europa League:

Thursday

Liverpool v Sparta Prague (Five, 6.0)

Kenny Dalglish's return to Europe was an anti-climax but Liverpool should be able to qualify for a tie against Lech Poznan or Braga.

Sporting Lisbon v Rangers (ESPN, 6.0)

The first game changed right at the finish when Matias Fernandez headed an equaliser, leaving Rangers with much to do if they are to earn a tie against Lille or PSV Eindhoven (2-2).

Manchester City v Aris Salonika (ITV4, 8.05)

City will be confident of going through, and almost certainly meeting Dynamo Kiev, for whom Andrei Shevchenko is scoring goals.

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