Attacking players talk of Champions League

Attacking players Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Luca Toni and Robin van Persie are the talking points as Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Arsenal return to Champions League action on Tuesday.

United host Celtic at Old Trafford and Berbatov, Manchester’s summer recruit from Tottenham, has claimed his partnership with Rooney can only get better and better.

Rooney is putting in some great performances, reminiscent of the way he imposed himself at Euro 2004 as an 18-year-old, and Gordon Strachan’s Celtic are probably aware his talent could spell the end of their chances of getting through from Group E.

Rooney’s last six outings for club and country have yielded eight goals, and many pundits have ascribed his new-found efficiency in front of goal to the fact that he has been playing alongside a couple of traditional centre forwards — Berbatov at United and Emile Heskey for England.

”Our partnership is progressing well,” Bulgarian international Berbatov said after Saturday’s 4-0 win over West Brom, in which both strikers scored.

”You can see it on the pitch. We have been working in training to try to understand each other and it is working.”

Rooney, meanwhile, is hoping that his current run will not dry up in the way his previous scoring bursts have.

”I don’t know why I go on these scoring runs, but I will just carry on playing the best I can, hopefully the goals will keep coming and I can help the team win,” he said.

Italy striker Luca Toni, however, faces a race against time to be fit for Bayern’s home match against his previous club Fiorentina.

The 31-year-old bruised his ribs in the first-half of Saturday’s 1-0 win at Karlsruhe — the defending Bundesliga champions’ first win in four league games — and sat out training on Sunday.

”We are monitoring him on a day-to-day basis and we are hoping, of course, he will be fit to face his old club,” said Bayern coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Should Toni fail to be fit, Germany striker Lukas Podolski is likely to deputise.

Robin van Persie believes Arsenal can use their trip to Fenerbahce to prove they have the mental strength needed to end their trophy drought.

The intimidating Sukru Saracoglu stadium has seen many famous names fall in the past and, although Luis Aragones’ side aren’t in top form, this is exactly the kind of game Arsenal have often slipped up in.

Dutch international Van Persie insists Wenger’s squad can cope with any environment.

”At this time in football, the mental aspect is really important, maybe more than 30% or 40%,” he said. ”If you look at the games we have played, like against Bolton and Blackburn, the mental aspect is more important than the way we want to play.

”I do not think it is a real big problem for us, but every single time we have to prove it again. Last season we played fantastic for three-quarters of the season and then suddenly everything fell down.

”I do not know if the reason is mentally, maybe it was a bit of everything, but we learned a lot from last year as well.

”The season is long, we lost some points, but we won some as well so we just have to stay positive.”

Juventus desperately need a win to ease the pressure on under-fire boss Claudio Ranieri and to kick-start their faltering season as Real Madrid come to town.

While they begun their Champions League campaign with a fortunate but positive 1-0 victory over Uefa Cup holders Zenit St Petersburg, the draw at debutants BATE Borisov exposed Juve’s weaknesses.

Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Napoli has hit confidence hard but Ranieri is remaining defiant.

”Of course a defeat such as this weighs heavy with regards the Champions League, but we have to keep working hard,” he said after the Napoli match.

”We made mistakes in a very physical game. We took the lead and needed to control the match but we didn’t manage it.

”Do I feel safe? Of course I am. This is not a crisis, we’re going through a sticky patch but we’re not talking about a crisis.

”It’s clear we’re lacking consistency. We played in bursts in both the first half and second; we don’t have the same fluidity as last season.”

Real are top of Group H on six points with Juve two points behind as they head into their double-header. — Sapa-AFP

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