After a notably successful last round of matches in Europe two weeks ago, in which Tottenham were the only losers of the seven British sides, the coming week of reverse fixtures offers some sterner tests. In taking on the European champions Internazionale again, Spurs can at least look back on a more encouraging second-half performance in the San Siro, and can add the knowledge that if they win on Tuesday they could top the group with two games to play. Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are already in that happy position at the halfway stage, though the latter pair face long treks to Ukraine and Turkey respectively.
United were not altogether happy with their previous win, grinding out a 1-0 at home to Bursaspor when the talk was all of Wayne Rooney's earlier inflammatory statement, and Sir Alex Ferguson is hoping for a better game this time. "It will be the same atmosphere crowd-wise you usually get in Turkey," he said. "You hope they come out and try to make a game of it because the last time was a non-event. They put everyone behind the ball and never tried to win. It became difficult for us."
Fortunately the breaking down came early on with one of the long-range individual efforts in which the Portuguese winger Nani seems to specialise. He may have got away with a deliberate handball to score against Spurs last night, but he has flourished since his friend and compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo left Old Trafford. Turning 24 in three weeks' time, he is taking on greater responsibility. "I've been working hard to help my team win games," he said. "Sometimes it is not possible to win games but my performance has been very good. They are happy with me but I want to do more."
Ferguson, he emphasised, is expecting more from the younger element. "We are getting more opportunity and he is trying to show us how it is important to get better," Nani added. "It is a big club and we need to win and every player on the pitch needs to think he can be the best in the world. He said we are here because effectively we are the best."
With Chelsea at one end of the age spectrum and United trying to marry youth and experience, Arsenal may be finding the best balance. Those previously thought of as young are quickly maturing and if Robin van Persie returns, they could be formidable in the new year. On Wednesday they will be far away in Donetsk, having beaten Shakhtar 5-1 with an outstanding performance, but Arsène Wenger says a very different game awaits them. "They are a different side at home," he said. "They have good technical quality so if you let them get into a flow they can cause you problems. Certainly they have been hurt by what happened to them at the Emirates and will give absolutely everything."
BRITS IN EUROPE...
Bursaspor v Manchester United (7.45pm, Sky Sports 3)
At Old Trafford, United (7 points) made exceptionally hard work of seeing off the Turkish side, who still have neither a point nor a goal from their debut at this level. Ahead of Rangers (5pts) and Valencia (4pts), United could afford a draw here but ought to win.
Tottenham Hotspur v Internazionale (7.45pm, Sky Sports 2)
Spurs (4pts) may have left their comeback against Inter (7pts) a little late but scoring three goals in the San Siro was psychologically useful, even if their earlier defending had been the opposite. Whatever happens here, a second draw between Werder (2pts) and Twente (2pts) would be perfect.
Valencia v Rangers (7.45pm, Sky Sports 4)
Despite having missed a chance when Maurice Edu cancelled out his goal at Ibrox with one into his own net, the Scottish champions (5pts) would maintain second place in the group if they could manage another draw here. Valencia (4pts), knocked off the top of La Liga, must still be favourites.
Chelsea v Spartak Moscow (7.45pm, ITV1)
Shrugging off the ghosts of the Luzhniki Stadium, Chelsea (9pts) were comfortable 2-0 winners against Spartak (6pts), and will therefore be through with even a point here. Stamford Bridge will be keen, however, to see a livelier encounter than the soporific 2-0 win at home to Marseilles (3pts).
Shakhtar Donetsk v Arsenal (7.45pm, Sky Sports 2)
Group H is panning out for Arsenal (9pts) much the same as Chelsea's, victory over Shakhtar (6pts) having opened a gap between them and made qualification a near certainty. The Ukrainians should be far more formidable at home than in the 5-1 defeat at the Emirates.
Liverpool v Napoli (8.05pm, Five)
A 4-1 victory over Steaua (2pts) for Liverpool (5pts) was the only game in Group K not to have been drawn and puts them in pole position. Away to Napoli (3pts) 10 days ago, they produced another of their better displays this season, coming back with a goalless draw.
Lech Poznan v Manchester City (6pm, ITV4)
Emmanuel Adebayor's hat-trick gave City (7pts) victory over the Polish side (4pts) in their last group game, and with Juventus (3pts) having drawn all three games, including the one at Eastlands, a win here would put City into the knockout stage of 32 teams.
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