Hulk set for superhero's welcome

Brazilian star returns to Porto with Zenit as Arsenal take on Dortmund and Barcelona play AC Milan in Champions League.

    Hulk set for superhero's welcome
    Real marvel: Hulk helped Porto to a major haul of trophies and says he won't celebrate if he scores [AFP]

    Zenit St Petersburg forward Hulk is set for a hero's welcome at Porto's Dragao stadium before Tuesday's Champions League match when his return will trigger fond memories of a brilliant spell at the Portuguese champions.

    Hulk helped the club claim four championship titles, three Portuguese cups, two Super Cups and one Europa League crown before his move to Russia last year.
    "Hulk has a beautiful past in Porto, he will be welcomed at this home, although tomorrow he is our opponent," coach Paulo Fonseca said.

    The burly Brazilian, 27, has promised not to celebrate if he scores at the Dragao, which houses a statue of the forward in the club museum.

    "I want to play and help Zenit get a victory which will be very important to us. I want to keep scoring, but if I do, I will not celebrate out of respect for Porto," Hulk told Portuguese daily oJogo.

    The new statue of Hulk at the Dragao has him posing in a trademark celebration, flexing his muscles in a pose resembling the comic book superhero he is nicknamed after.

    "I've still only seen the statue in a photo, but I even shared it on my Instagram account. I thanked them for the homage, I hope to have the chance to see it and take a picture next to it," he said.

    Atletico Madrid are top of Group G with six points, followed by Porto on three, and Austria Vienna and Zenit both with one.

    Impressive Arsenal

    Arsenal are a better side than when they beat Borussia Dortmund two seasons ago and this year's consistent form gives them even more confidence about hosting last year's finalists in Champions League Group F, manager Arsene Wenger said on Monday.

    Group fixtures

    Tuesday October 22

    Steaua Bucharest v Basel
    Schalke v Chelsea
    Arsenal v Borussia Dortmund
    Marseille v Napoli
    Porto v Zenit St Petersburg
    Austria Vienna v Atl Madrid
    Celtic v Ajax

    AC Milan v Barcelona

    Wednesday October 23

    CSKA Moscow v Man City
    Bayern Munich v Plzen
    Bayer Leverkusen v Shakhtar
    Man Utd v Real Sociedad
    Real Madrid v Juventus
    Galatasaray v FC Copenhagen
    Anderlecht v PSG
    Benfica v Olympiakos

    The only negative for the Premier League leaders, who demonstrated top quality in the goals they scored in a 4-1 win over Norwich City on Saturday, is that they will be without midfielder Mathieu Flamini on Tuesday because of concussion.

    Arsenal and last season's runners-up Dortmund met in the group stages of the 2011/12 edition of the competition with Wenger's side winning the home fixture 2-1.

    "I believe we are much better, that our young players have gained experience and maturity and that the consistency of our results since January 1, 2013 shows that we are capable to be consistent," Wenger told a news conference.

    Jack Wilshere's exquisite goal against Norwich, which came after a wonderful move involving Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, is the type of class Wenger is talking about as the Group F leaders seek to make it nine points from three games.

    With 10 points widely accepted as the number that will usually put a team through to the knockout stage, Wenger knows victory on Tuesday would put them within touching distance.

    "It's not a decider but an important one, it's an 80 per cent game for the qualifying, if we win the game we know that if we win the other home game we are there," he said.

    Playmaker Mesut Ozil said the movement for Wilshere's goal was so good that it could have come from a computer game.

    "I've got to praise the three players involved for the first goal," he told Arsenal Player.

    "It was real 'tiki taka' - almost like they were playing PlayStation. It was an unbelievable goal.

    "(Confidence) is really high. We know what we can do but we won't get carried away. It's still very early but we know how much potential we have in the team. We just enjoy playing and it shows on the pitch."

    Plenty of cups

    Spain's big two face a pair of Italian giants in the Champions League this week, boasting 22 European Cups between them, as AC Milan aim to end a recent bad record against Barcelona on Tuesday before Italian champions Juventus seek to peg back Real Madrid the day after.

    With 10 points widely accepted as the magic number that usually puts a team through to the knockout stage of Europe's elite club competition, seven of the eight group leaders can get within a point of that with wins in this third round of games.

    Tuesday's Group H encounter at the San Siro means Milan and Barca meet for a third season in a row.

    The Spaniards triumphed 4-2 on aggregate in last term's round of 16 and they also met in the group stage the year before, drawing 2-2 in Spain and Barca winning 3-2 in Italy.

    Barcelona also overcame seven-times European champions Milan 1-0 on aggregate in the 2005/06 semi-finals on their way to their second of four continental titles.

    The match provides the Italians with not just a chance of revenge but also the possibility of going above their rivals in the Group H standings where Gerardo Martino's team lead with a perfect six points from two matches with Milan second on four.

    It will also offer an opportunity for referee Felix Brych to try to forget about a mistake in the Bundesliga at the weekend when he awarded Bayer Leverkusen striker Stefan Kiessling a goal when the ball had passed through a hole in the side-netting.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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