Dynamo Kyiv entertain Newcastle this week in the opening match of what is arguably the most even group of all.
It does not help Newcastle that they are languishing 19th in the Premiership table, with only one win from their opening five games as they face a daunting trip to the Ukraine. But Bobby Robson will be boosted by the returns of Craig Bellamy, Laurent Robert and Andy O’Brien from injury. 18-yearold striker Michael Chopra is also added to the squad.
Robson is expected to revert to a 3-5-2 formation tonight with Aaron Hughes earmarked to do a man-marking job on Romanian playmaker Florin Cernat.
For Kyiv, their already depleted squad has been further decimated by the loss of ‘keeper Olexander Shovkovsky, after a knee operation. He will more than likely be replaced by Vitaly Reva in goal. However, The Ukrainian side are in good form at the moment, winning their most recent league match 8-0.
Feyenoord should have no shortage of confidence aheadof their home encounter with Juventus, following their 2-0 victory over NEC.
However, the visitors will also be in buoyant mood, after they crushed Atalanta 3-0, thanks to a double strike from Alessandro Del Piero.
Juventus willbe without Gianluca Zambrotta and Gianluca Pessotto, who are both carrying injuries. The last time these two teams met in the Champions League, Feyenoord ran out 2-0 winners in Rotterdam, courtesy oftwo goals from Julio Cruz. However, that win came on the back of a 5-1 loss in Turin, with Del Piero once again getting on the score sheet.
Manchester United’s latest assault on Europe’s top prize, with Maccabi Haifa the visitors.
Despite their poor Premiership form, United will be hot favourites to pick up the three points in this encounter.Nicky Butt may miss the game after bruising a hip against Leeds on Saturday, but Juan Veron is expected to return.
Gary Neville may also play some part for United, having not played for the first team since breaking his foot in April. Despite still missing Paul Scholes and club captain Roy Keane, Sir Alex Ferguson will expect no less than a victory against United’s Israeli opponents. Assuming he knows their correct identity that is.
Feguson made a monumental blunder on the eve of the match, refererring to Maccabi’s European exploits of last season, only to be infoormed that the victories over Lokomotiv, Milan and Parma, were actually achieved by fellow Israeli side Hapoel Tell Aviv. Told of his mistake, a visibly embarrassed Ferguson muttered: ‘I’m sorry, I got it wrong.’
Last seasons Champions League runners-up Bayer Leverkusen will be United’s main rivals for top spot in Group F. They travel to Greece to meet Olympiakos onWednesday night.
However, they will not find it easy, as the Greek side have won their first three league fixtures this season. In contrast to this, Leverkusen have just one win from their opening five games, suggesting that an upset could be on the cards.
Injuries are also a problem for Bayer, with Jens Nowotny, Juan and Diego Placente all out, whilst Dimitar Berbatov and Ulf Kirsten did not travel. Put all this together, and Leverksen’s trip to Greece looks to be one that they certainly will not relish!
Bayern Munich take on Deportivo La Coruna in their Champions League opener but will almost certainly be without World Cup star Michael Ballack.
The German Footballer of the Year has been in great form this season, but unfortunately picked up a knock in the win over Nurnberg at the weekend. Bayern have enjoyed a great start to the new Bundesliga season, and they are currently top of the table. New signings Ballack and Ze Roberto have had a hand in Bayern’s mini-revival.
As for Deportivo, they suffered a 4-2 defeat on the opening day of the season to Betis. However, their form has picked up, but they have been hit by injuries early in the season.
Eight Deportivo players will miss the Bayern game, including the injured duo Cesar and Diego Tristan, plus Aldo Duscher, who is suspended. Bayern are expected to be without Bixente Lizarazu, who has a knee injury, while Mehmet Scholl, Roque Santa Cruz and Sebastian Diesler will definately miss out.
Milan and Lens make up the teams in Group G, and will face each other at the Sann Siro this week. Milan opened their new Serie A campaign with a 3-0 win over Modena at the weekend. New signing Rivaldo was a substitute in that match, but he may earn his first start against the French side. Thomas Helveg, Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Redondo and Roque Junior are all doubts for Milan.
Club Brugge travel to Barcelona this week hoping to pull off a shock away win.
The two sides have met before in the Champions League. Just two years ago, Rivaldoput Barcelona ahead from the penalty spot, only to see Gert Verheyen equalise in a 1-1 draw. However, Barcelona picked up all three points in Brugge, winning 2-0 thanks to first half goals from Rivaldo and Patrick Kluivert. A repeat performance would do nicely for the Spanish side, following their humiliating Spanish Cup defeat to third division Novelda.
Lokomotiv Moscow could do without their injury problems this week as the visit of Galatasaray looms. Strikers James Obiorah and Ruslan Pimenov were ruled out of Lokomotiv’s last league match, while Marat Izmailov has a fractured bone in his foot. Galatasaray’s strong Turkish league form will not help matters for Lokomotiv.