Europe’s big guns in pole position

Paris, August 14:

Europe’s big guns Barcelona, Juventus and Arsenal are in pole position to shoot into the group stages though Liverpool have work to do as the Champions League began in earnest on Wednesday.

With 41 weeks to go to the May 27 final at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, club football’s most prestigious and richest competition hotted up as top clubs fought it out for a ticket to the money-spinning pool stages.

Barcelona and Juventus both had 4-0 victories, over Wisla Krakow and Artmedia Bratislava, but Arsenal were far from convincing in a 2-0 victory at Dutch club FC Twente and Liverpool were simply mediocre in a goalless draw in third qualifying round, first leg action.

William Gallas and Emmanuel Adebayor were on target for Arsenal who were outplayed for much of the match before going ahead against the run of play. Former England manager Steve McClaren, now the FC Twente boss, was thrust into the spotlight once more against glamorous opponents when the draw was made. On the night, however, his team did not have the lucky breaks when needed.

It was disappointment for the Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane strike duo as Liverpool stuttered to a 0-0 draw against Standard Liege.

Barcelona, who have gone two seasons without a trophy, began their campaign in style by disposing of Wisla Krakow 4-0. Two goals came from Samuel Eto’o and Xavi Hernandez and Thierry Henry got the others.

Juventus made a confident return to European action, thrashing Slovak champions Artmedia Bratislava with goals from Mauro Camoranesi, Alessandro Del Piero, Giorgio Chiellini and Nicola Legrottaglie.