PARIS: Uruguay international Diego Forlan has become a real force for Manchester United, pushing himself into the reckoning for their return match at home to Rangers in the Champions League today.
Striker Forlan has taken time to settle at Old Trafford but his goal and general performance in their 3-0 victory over Portsmouth on Saturday means he is finally becoming the player boss Alex Ferguson thought he would be.
The supremacy of both Manchester United and fellow Premiership side Chelsea in their pools will be put to the test this week.
United’s 1-0 victory against Rangers at Ibrox two weeks ago has been a huge boost to their European campaign and Ferguson’s men defend their lead in Group E with a home tie against the Scots.
Chelsea’s 2-1 victory at home to Lazio has also left them top of Group G but surely manager Claudio Ranieri would be happy with a point in the Rome return to keep up their momentum.
Forlan’s form has been a real plus for United especially with the absences of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Paul Scholes and Kleberson through injury.
Though it is not clear whether Forlan will start against Rangers, his goal a game during the last three matches has brought an acknowledgement from Ferguson he will be difficult to drop.
Ferguson said: “He seems to be getting better – he could have had a hat-trick in the each of the last two games but today he’s linked well and scored his goal and did his job.
“When players are scoring goals it does make it difficult to leave them out, I have always felt that, and he definitely comes into the reckoning for Tuesday.”
The Uruguayan himself admitted that patience was paying off.
“Every time, every game you hope to be involved, and we all hope we will be. I always train hard and try to prepare myself well so when I get a chance I do as good as I can – and then the manager has to decide,” said Forlan.
Rangers’ German midfielder Christian Nerlinger has been ruled out of the match, however, and Dutchman Fernando Ricksen is extremely doubtful.
The double injury blow is a serious setback for Rangers where defeat could be fatal to their chances of advancing to the knockout stage of the tournament.
In the other Group E match, VfB Stuttgart’s Brazilian defender Marcelo Bordon will miss their trip to Greek side Panathinaikos and will need an operation on his groin following their 4-1 win against SC Freiburg on Saturday.
The Samba defender has been a pivotal figure in Stuttgart’s defence this season, which has conceded just two goals in 11 Bundesliga matches.
The skill of Chelsea’s Joe Cole was on show in their 1-0 win at Everton on Saturday and now the England midfielder is hoping for inclusion at Lazio.
Cole said: “I would love to be playing in Rome against Lazio, but then every Chelsea player would say that. But we all have faith in the manager’s ability to pick the right team to get the job done.”
Ranieri described Cole’s Everton performance as his best for the club, making it surely hard to exclude him in Rome and ending all talk of him going on loan to former club West Ham.
Sparta Prague, who threw away a two-goal lead at Lazio to only draw 2-2 early last month, travel to Turkish side Besiktas in the other Group G game.
European champions AC Milan will be without striker Filippo Inzaghi and Brazilian wing-back Serginho away to Belgian club FC Bruges.
Serginho was stretchered off with an ankle injury during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Juventus, while Italy international Inzaghi, who missed the top-of-the-table San Siro showdown, is still nursing a thigh strain.
Danish striker Jon Dahl Tomasson, scorer of Milan’s goal against Juve, is expected to keep his place in attack, while captain Paolo Maldini could move from the centre of defence to fill in for Serginho.
Milan’s shock 1-0 home defeat to Bruges last month left the two clubs tied on four points in Group H, two points behind leaders Ajax, who travel to Celta Vigo today, with three games left to play.
Spanish international forward Raul is set to sign a deal that will keep him at Real Madrid for the rest of his career, the club announced on Sunday, which gives the Spanish giants a boost before their trip to Partizan Belgrade.
Marseille, who had their attempt to sign keeper Fabio Barthez on-loan last week turned down by football’s world governing body FIFA because it was outside the transfer window, travel to Porto in the other Group F game. – AFP