Eyes will be on Group E tonight, with both qualification places still up for grabs.
A win for Juve tonight would secure the second phase for them, while Feyenoord know a win is vital for them if they are to keep in touch at the top. The Italians and Dynamo Kiev lead the group with seven points, and Feyenoord, third with five, know this is a must win game.
The Dutchmen lost produced a disappointing perfomance in Kiev last week, which was a huge blow to their hopes of progressing, but after thrashing Willem II 5-1 on Saturday in the Eredivisie, they are hopeful of pulling off a surprise win in Turin.
“The group is still wide open and hopefully our win in the league on Saturday will make us forget last week’s defeat against Kyiv and help us get the result we need against Juventus,” said coach Bert van Marwijk.
Feyenoord are boosted by the news that coach van Marwijk has agreed to sign an extenstion to his current contract, which was due to expire at the end of the season.
“Bert still sees opportunities for development in the squad and we feel the same way,” said the club’s technical director Rob Baan. ‘That we are doing it now shows that we are satisfied with this coach. We have the feeling that there’s still some growth in the cooperation,” he added.
The injury hit De Kuip club are still without crocked star striker Pierre Van Hooijdonk, but the form of young Belgian Thomas Buffel has been a major plus point, and he has attracted praise from none other than fellow countryman and former national team legend Enzo Scifo.
‘I really like Buffel.” said Scifo.
“He gets involved and isn’t afraid to do something special – a breath of fresh air for the national team.” Buffel’s form has also attracted praise from van Marwijk.
“He wants to help the team and make it better in everything he does,” said the coach.
But Juventus – pegged back after at first seemingly about to walk the group – will be confident of a qualification sealing win at the Stadio Delli Alpi tonight, especially with the expected return of Alessandro Del Piero to the attack.
Juve did manage a 1-0 win over Udinese at the weekend, courtesy of Marcelo Salas’ first goal in an injury-hit year, but it was obvious the attack missed the genius of Del Piero. Marco Di Vaio will also return after picking up concussion in last week’s defeat at Newcastle.
Locked on points at the top with Dynamo Kiev, Coach Marcelo Lippi is understandably keen for his team toclinch qualification before the trip to Russia on the final Group E matchday.
“This game is extremely important for us as we want to qualify and not have to travel to Kiev for our last game with everything depending on it,” said Lippi.
“We need to win to qualify and we aim to do that.”
: Buffon; Ferrara, Tacchinardi, Thuram, Zambrotta, Davids, Conte, Nedved, Di Vaio, Del Piero.
Feyenoord: Zoetebier; Emerton, Van Wonderen, Paauwe, Rzasa; Song, Bosvelt, Ono, Kalou; Lurling, Buffel.
Newcastle v Dynamo Kyiv
Newcastle coach Bobby Robson has paid tribute to his inspirational skipper Alan Shearer ahead of tonight’s do or die Group E game against Dynamo Kyiv at St James’ Park tonight.
Newcastle kept their slim hopes of qualification alive by beating Juventus last week, and Robson said of Shearer: “He’s been merrily going along. I know that he’s 32, but he’s a tough lad, a strong boy and he’s obviously strong mentally, there’s no doubt about that.”
“He doesn’t like missing matches, he doesn’t want to be out of the side, which is a help and which is a key factor in his personality, and he’s playing very, very well,” added Robson.
Evergreen Shearer, who recently scored his 300th career goal, has admitted that tonight is the biggest European club match of his career.
“Everything hinges on this result and we know just how tough it is going to be,” he revealed.
But after Newcastle’s win over Juve,Shearer has told how Newcastle have now got the bit between their teeth.
“We really have got the impetus now. We wanted to make certain whatever we did that the trip to Feyenoord in just over two weeks’ time would mean something and that we would have something to play for,” he said.
However, Shearer was quick to praise tonight’s opposition, and warned that it would take another huge effort to record another win tonight.
“We know just how tough it is going to be because there is no doubt in my mind that Kiev are the best team we have played,” Shearer said.
“They are so well organised, are typically tough and physical – but don’t forget the skill they have. This is often overlooked but, from everything I have seen of them, they will make this a real test for us,” added the 32 year-old.
Newcastle are also aware that the St James’ Park crowd, famous for its vociferous support of the team, has an important part to play in the outcome of the game. “The public can be a very important player for us against Kiev,” said Robson.
“When we went out to Kiev it was a very intimidating atmosphere for us, and we hope we can create that at our ground.”
Kyiv can qualify tonight if they win and Feyenoord lose, but coach Olexiy Mykhaylychenko knows they must match their excellent display of last week to overcome their English counterparts. “We want to leave Newcastle knowing we have qualified for the next round,” he said.
“We realise Newcastle will be difficult to play against on their own ground and they have shown against Juventus that they are in good form.”
Newcastle’s cause is helped no end by the return to fitness of Kieron Dyer, but Craig Bellamy – in America for treatment on his troubled knee – will be sorely missed.
: Harper; Griffin, O’Brien, Dabizas, Hughes, Solano, Dyer, Speed, Robert or Viano, Shearer, Lua Lua.
: Reva; Husin, Gavrancic, Ghioane, Dmytrulin, Peew, Bialkovich, Kaddouri, Rincon, Khatskevitch, Shatskikh