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Big clubs through to Euro showdown

I'm pleased to see all of the big clubs come through the group stage of the Champions League and set up a few potentially mouthwatering ties to enjoy in February.

There were a few shocks in the group games which were good for football, but it was important that the main teams qualified.

All of the English, Spanish and Italian clubs advanced and the Germans and French are also in the mix.

But they'll all have to be well prepared and work very hard as Barcelona are red hot. They put a lot of their young guys out in the last game and they still got a result.

By finishing second in their group, Arsenal could now face one of the big guns but even if they get the toughest draw they'll still have a chance to get a run together if they play the right football.

Those who face Barcelona will know if they can't match their work rate they'll be in big big trouble.

Manchester United could get Lyon or any one of the three Italian teams AC, Inter or Roma.

United's experience in the Champions League means a lot and those travelling to Old Trafford with 80,000 fans screaming down their throats will face a tough task if they're to get a result.

This weekend's big Premiership game sees United host Arsenal and the Gunners will have to be their very best, although technically they are the English version of Barcelona.

My West Ham played well in our loss to Sunderland last week and I want all of our youngsters here to understand a very important point about the game.

If you are not the last defender, you can't call for offside, especially when you are playing square at the back and the ball comes to you and you appeal . . . that's not good enough. Everyone needs to be on the same page and that was our problem.

This weekend we play Manchester City and we will have to work as hard as we have in our last few matches but we shouldn't fear them. You know you can score against City.

Newcastle's sacking of Chris Hughton was disappointing because they never gave him a chance. He had done very well while he was there.

He brought them up to the Premiership at the first time of asking, beat Arsenal at the Emirates and won the huge derby against Sunderland. To sack him like that was totally uncalled for . . . and then to bring in Alan Pardew, someone who isn't much better.

The FA need to look at these situations with owners who do things out of the norm. This was a drastic decision to make and Houghton is really a nice person, a Magpie through and through.

The Newcastle players shouldn't be too bothered, they will get over it, but it's all about the fans and I gather they didn't like this decision. Yet the club turn round and give Pardew a five-year contract. It's all rather bizarre.

Someone who shouldn't be on the tight rope is Rafa Benitez, who suffered another heavy defeat when Inter lost 3-0 to Werder Bremen.

The president of the club said he is fine with Benitez as long as he wins the World Club Championships, although this is a lot to put on him.

He was successful at Liverpool and Inter have been spoiled by Jose Mourinho's success.

Managers are like players, they have wives and children and want to perform. When a player doesn't perform he gets subbed or rested, but a coach gets fired and sent into the wilderness.

I hope Benitez wins the Championships because he is a good coach.

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Published December 11, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 11, 2010 at 2:35 pm)

Big clubs through to Euro showdown

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