Arsenal call for fewer national friendlies

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The Independent Football

Arsenal have called for a reduction in the number of international friendly matches now that most countries play so many qualification games for major tournaments. As members of the G14 pressure group, they are also stepping up their campaign for players to be paid while on international duty.

The disputes are potentially embarrassing for the club's vice-chairman, David Dein, who holds the same position with the Football Association, which is opposed to payments. But Arsenal's managing director, Keith Edelman, said: "The internationals are very disruptive to Premier League football and over time I would hope they might rethink the scheduling, especially friendly matches. Countries are using the assets of the clubs, and there is a view that they should pay for that. The other issue is how they are used. Sometimes they are used without respect, and when they're not fully fit."

Arsenal's manager, Arsène Wenger, was furious recently when Alexander Hleb returned injured from a Belarus match in which Wenger felt he should not have been playing.

Wenger tends to rest a number of his front-line players from the Carling Cup and will be looking to do the same again, no doubt, in the fourth round. Arsenal were yesterday drawn at home against Reading, who have made it clear with their early-season form that they aim to be pushing hard to secure promotion to the Premiership this season. Lower division clubs enjoy their outings in this competition because so many of the top teams follow Arsenal's habit and field weakened teams, so Steve Coppell will have high hopes for his Reading side.

After disposing of the European champions, Liverpool, Iain Dowie's Crystal Palace have the chance to progress to the quarter-finals at the expense of Middlesbrough.

Doncaster, of League One, put out Manchester City in the second round and now have the opportunity to continue their run by taking another Premiership scalp when they face Aston Villa.

There will be three all-Premiership fixtures with Manchester United hosting West Bromwich, Newcastle travelling to Wigan and Charlton facing Blackburn at The Valley.

Birmingham, who beat Norwich on Wednesday, will travel to the New Den to meet another Coca-Cola Championship side in Millwall. Ties will be played during the week commencing 28 November.

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