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Man. United's new problem: too many stars
by Paul Kennedy, November 9th, 2007 7AM

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COACH/SIR ALEX FERGUSON
With his team finally healthy, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has a new problem -- finding room on the bench for all his players -- and he would like to see the English Premier League allow teams to suit up seven substitutes.

Ferguson had five internationals on the bench for last Saturday's 2-2 tie with Arsenal, but he had no room for Scottish star Darren Fletcher. "When you leave someone out like Darren Fletcher, who has done a fantastic job for us, it doesn't sit easy with me," Ferguson said. "I'm disappointed about it."

Ferguson's only option to keep everyone happy is to juggle his lineup. He made five changes in his starting lineup for the 4-0 win over Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League with Gerard Pique, Nani, Michael Carrick, Danny Simpson and Fletcher getting starts. Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs and Owen Hargreaves are expected to return to the lineup for Sunday's game against Blackburn Rovers, which features American Brad Friedel in goal.

TV
FOX SOCCER CHANNEL, MANCHESTER UNITED-BLACKBURN, Sunday (live), 9:55 am ET.

PLAYERS/HATEM BEN ARFA & KARIM BENZEMA
Symbols of the new Lyon are Hatem Ben Arfa and Karim Benzema, both youth team products of North African heritage. Both have had outstanding seasons for Lyon, which has recovered from a slow start to lead Ligue 1 by four points going into Sunday's against Marseille, mired in the relegation zone in 19th place after 13 games.

Benzema, 19, leads the league with 11 goals, while Ben Arfa, 20, scored twice for Lyon in its 4-2 win over VfB Stuttgart in the Champions League on Wednesday. Both are already key figures on the French national team, following in the footsteps of another French star of North African origin, the retired Zinedine Zidane. They have pushed veterans like David Trezeguet and Sylvain Wiltord out of the picture.

Ben Arfa noted that Wednesday's win over Stuttgart -- which kept Lyon alive in the Champions League after opening with two losses -- was important. "We'll only get better," he said, "when we play matches like this -- big European matches."

TV
SETANTA SPORTS USA, LYON-MARSEILLE, Sunday (live), 2:55 pm.


RACE/BUNDESLIGA
German clubs return to the Bundesliga after a miserable week in Europe. It could have hardly been worse: Werder Bremen and VfB Stuttgart lost on the road and Schalke 04 tied at home, and all look like they won't qualify for the knockout phase. In the UEFA Cup, Nuremberg lost at home and Bayer Leverkusen fell on the road, and Bayern Munich had to settle for a tie at home.

For former German great Lothar Matthaeus, the results are alarming. "You need heart, passion, engagement and an identification with your club in soccer," he told Premiere TV. "You don't see that at some of these clubs."

That inconsistent form has been evident in the Bundesliga, where defending champion Stuttgart hosts Bayern Saturday in the German league's key match. A Stuttgart win would mean it has made up seven points on the league leader in the last three weeks after falling 16 points off the pace after only 10 games. Bayern is winless in its last two games, leaving Hamburg, two points back, with a chance to take the lead if it beats Schalke on Saturday.

TV
GOL TV, STUTTGART-BAYERN MUNICH, Saturday (live), 9:25 am ET.
GOL TV, SCHALKE-HAMBURG, Saturday (delay), 11:30 am ET.

MATCH/FEYENOORD-AJAX
Archrivals Feyenoord and Ajax head into Sunday's Dutch derby tied for first place after 10 games in the Eredivisie.

Coached by Adrie Koster, who succeeded Henk ten Cate after he left for Chelsea, Ajax has had a solid start to its domestic season after recovering from early exits in the Champions League and UEFA Cup. Klaas Jan Huntelaar (11 goals) and 20-year-old Uruguayan Luis Suarez (7) headline the Ajax attack that has averaged 3.1 goals per game. Feyenoord is much improved after a troubled 2006-07 campaign and produced seven shutouts in 10 games. The Rotterdam club signed veteran Dutch stars Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Roy Makaay in the offseason.

The derby has had a long history of trouble in the stands, and the clubs are considering banning away fans if the violence and ill feelings don't stop. "There are limits to what we consider acceptable," the clubs said in a joint statement. "Healthy rivalry is beautiful and belongs to this match. Fans can support their team several ways, but chants referring to the persecution of Jews [Ajax's roots are in Amsterdam's old Jewish quarter] or the bombing of Rotterdam [during World War II] will not be tolerated."

TV
SETANTA SPORTS USA, FEYENOORD-AJAX, Monday (delay), 6:30 am ET.

 



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