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Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009

Manchester United hoping for Turkish delight

ISTANBUL (AP) Manchester United returns to the Champions League for the first time since losing last season's final when it plays its opening group match at Besiktas on Tuesday.

A trip to Istanbul is no longer as intimidating as it was in the 1990s, when the English champions were eliminated by Galatasaray in a match marred by crowd trouble, and United will be expecting a good result after hitting form following a slow start to the season.

United defeated Arsenal 2-1 and downed previously unbeaten Tottenham 3-1 on Saturday despite conceding a goal in the first minute and having Paul Scholes sent off midway through the second half.

"We responded in the right manner, getting the ball down and playing some of our best football this season," United defender Rio Ferdinand said.

United started the season seemingly in a stupor from its 2-0 Champions League final loss to Barcelona, when the Red Devils showed nearly nothing of the style that brought them the previous year's European title and a third straight Premier League trophy.

Key to United's revival from a surprise early Premier League loss to Burnley has been Wayne Rooney's good form.

The England striker has scored six goals in as many games for United, including a solo effort to put United 2-1 up at Spurs, and is thriving in the central role made available to him following the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid.

Rooney, who also scored last week in a 5-1 win over Croatia that clinched England's place at the World Cup, is almost certain to continue up front at the Inonu stadium — most likely supported by Dimitar Berbatov.

"Wayne knows the onus is on him to be one of the people who gets the goals," Ferdinand said. "He seems to have taken that on his shoulders and he's running with it."

Besiktas has opened its defense of the Turkish league title with just one win from five matches and was beaten 3-0 on Saturday at Galatasaray.

English clubs have provided three of the four semifinalists each of the past three years, but Besiktas goalkeeper Rustu Recber said United may still be unsettled by a hostile atmosphere.

"The level of hostility at the Inonu is unique," Recber said. "United have been to Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, but the Besiktas fans are in a league of their own.

"They are the noisiest, the most passionate, and they stay with the team for 90 minutes. The noise is incredible. It will be a new experience even for those United players who think they have seen everything. Our fans can really make it hell."

Chelsea faces Porto

LONDON (AP) Chelsea will start this season's Champions League campaign on Tuesday against FC Porto with a coach and six players who have won the European Cup with other clubs.

Carlo Ancelotti, who has won the prize with AC Milan as both a player and coach, is now in charge of the Premier League leaders, who opened this season with five straight wins and lead the Premier League by three points.

Chelsea has never won the Champions League — the London team reached the final in 2008 but lost to Manchester United on penalties — but the lineup on Tuesday could have four former Porto players who won the title in 2004.

Porto's starting lineup in the final against Monaco included defenders Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho, and midfielder Deco. Fullback Jose Bosingwa was an unused substitute.

Striker Nicolas Anelka won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 2000 and Juliano Belletti scored Barcelona's winner in the 2006 final.

The Blues will face Porto without striker Didier Drogba, who is suspended for three European games for a verbal attack on a referee in last season's semifinal win over Barcelona.

"We have to accept the situation because it's impossible to use Didier in the Champions League," Ancelotti said. "Didier is disappointed not to play but he can still help the team in the Premier League."

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