Villa glad to be back

Barcelona (9/4 Champions League outright with bet365) striker David Villa believes he is now physically strong enough to play a major part in his side’s quest for La Liga glory this season.

After a sparkling first year at the Nou Camp, the Spanish international suffered an horrific broken leg last December, which saw him miss almost nine months of action.

The Blaugrana struggled without his direct style, eventually surrendering the title to bitter rivals Real Madrid and their lack of cutting edge also added to their downfall in the Champions League.

However, he is now back to full fitness and has already had a positive impact on the side, scoring four goals in his 10 appearances this season, including the opener in Saturday’s 5-0 win at Rayo Vallecano.

Villa (125/1 Primera Liga top scorer with bet365) is understandably delighted by his recent form and believes he is now ready to play a major role in Barca’s bid to reclaim both the domestic title and the Champions League.

“I’m in great shape, and I am very happy to return to playing football again. I am delighted at helping my team win by getting a goal,” the striker told AS. “It’s just great to be back and I’m confident I can help the side win trophies this season.”

Barry gives City fighting chance

Gareth Barry says Manchester City are not prepared to give up on reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League yet (City 6/1 to qualify from group with bet365).

The English champions hopes of reaching the last-16 of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time suffered a massive blow on Wednesday night as they were beaten 3-1 by Ajax.

The defeat in Amsterdam means City have one point from their first three matches, leaving them with a mountain to climb if they are to get out of the group.

With Borussia Dortmund topping the group with seven points and Real Madrid in second with six manager Roberto Mancini has conceded his City team need a “miricale” to make it to the last-16.

City were eliminated at the group stages of the Champions League last season and there is a lot of discontent amongst supporters that they haven’t been able to do any better this year, despite some difficult opponents.

While Barry concedes it will be a tough ask to make it out of Group D he says he isn’t prepared to give up on the fight for qualification just yet.

“The way the results have gone has made it tough but we have to try to win all three games and that would give us an outside chance,” he said.

“It’s not over yet. You can’t just roll over when there are points available and we will give it our all to try to win all three games.”

City will hope to bounce back at the weekend when they host Swansea in the Premier League, a game Mancini’s men are 2/9 to win, with the Swans 14/1 and the draw 5/1.

Wenger hopeful on injured trio

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is hopeful that the injury list at the Emirates is clearing as he looks to get the club back on track for a title tilt (Arsenal 14/1 Premier League Outright with bet365).

The French tactician has confirmed that ‘there is a chance’ England playmaker Jack Wilshere could make a long-awaited return to duty after completing Arsenal Under-21s 2-1 win over Everton on Monday.

The 20-year-old has not played for 14 months following knee and ankle problems but showed no ill effects against the Toffees and could be included in the squad that hosts QPR on Saturday (Arsenal 3/10, Draw 9/2, QPR 9/1 Match Betting with bet365).

Wilshere was an unused substitute in last weekend’s surprise 1-0 defeat at Norwich but may feature against the struggling Hoops, while Bacary Sagna and Emmanuel Frimpong are also closing in on a comeback.

“There is a chance,” Wenger said of Wilshere. “He had 90 minutes yesterday, Sagna had 90 minutes, Frimpong had 90 minutes. We’ll see how they recover.

“We are a little bit in a trap at the moment because he needs to play full games and of course, 48 hours later is too dangerous to play a player, or even put him on the bench, who has not played for such a long time.”

Wednesday night’s Champions League encounter against Schalke at the Emirates (Arsenal Evens, Draw 5/2, Schalke 11/4 Match Betting with bet365) has come too early for the trio, although defender Laurent Koscielny is expected to be available following a back injury.

However, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been ruled out after sustaining a hip injury against Norwich, while Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott, Wojciech Szczesny, Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky are all out injured.

Wenger wants Gunners reaction

Arsene Wenger has admitted Arsenal’s performance in the shock 1-0 defeat at Norwich was “not good enough” and has urged them to show a big improvement in Wednesday’s Champions League clash at home to Schalke (Arsenal – 16/1 Champions League Outright with bet365).

The Gunners went down to the narrow defeat at Carrow Road when Grant Holt struck in the first half for Chris Hughton’s Canaries and Wenger admitted afterwards it was his side’s worst display of the season.

“We have to put that performance behind us and realise that is not good enough,” he said. “The attitude of the team has been excellent, but that was not at the level of what we have produced until now, it was the first time of the season we were way below par.”

Arsenal are now in ninth place in the Premier League following the loss and are 10 points behind leaders Chelsea.

Wenger will want his side to bounce back when they host QPR next weekend, but it is the Champions League he now must focus on in midweek when German outfit Schalke come to the Emirates (Arsenal 10/11, Schalke 3/1, draw 12/5 – Match prices with bet365).

“We have to come out with a difference performance in the Champions League game (against Schalke) on Wednesday night,” the Frenchman insisted.

No repeat of early Euro exit, vows Fergie

Sir Alex Ferguson says there’s “no question” his Manchester United side will get out of the Champions League group stage this year and avoid a repeat of 12 months ago, ahead of their opening game at home to Galatasaray (United 2/7, Gala 10/1, draw 9/2 – Match prices with bet365).

United, who have won the European Cup three times in total, were unexpectedly dumped out early on last term when they finished behind Basel and Benfica in the group stage.

Home draws against those aformentioned two sides ensured their fourth European triumph remained as far away as ever but, ahead of this year’s competition proper getting underway this week, Fergie has insisted they will not be embarrassed in 2012-13 (United 9/1 Champions League Outright with bet365).

“We’ve lost two finals to Barcelona and won two other finals in the last decade or so but we want to do better,” Ferguson told the club’s website. “Certainly we’ll do better than last year – no question about that.

“The European Cup is incredible. There’s an atmosphere in the build-up to a European final and great charisma about it. Also, without question, it elevates your status within the game like the Real Madrids and AC Milans. We want to be up there in terms of the number of trophies won in European football.”

Following their tie with Galatasaray, Ferguson’s men take on Liverpool in the Premier League at Anfield on Sunday, and United will need no reminding that the Merseysiders have themselves, with five triumphs, won two more European Cups than their arch-rivals – a stat the Scot will be no doubt desperate to put right over the next few years.