The two unbeaten sides in Group C meet each other in Athens tonight but the chances of both remaining unbeaten by the end of the night look remote. Real Madrid, the visitors, have looked awesome in their opening two matches, winning 3-0 in what looked a potentially tricky tie away to Roma and then following that up with a 6-0 steamrollering of Genk last week.
The holders are justifiable favourites to win the competition, especially when one rememebrs that they have yet to field their summer signing Ronaldo. The Brazilian misses out again tonight but to offset his absence Real can look to the return of Zinedine Zidane whoo missd last week’s demolition. Fernando Hierro is rested which allows Ivan Helguera to return after recovering from injury. There could be a Champions League debut for youth team scoring sensation Javier Portillo; the youngster may be given a run-out if the game is safe for Real.
AEK though unbeaten, have hardly been setting the group alight to date. Goaless draws in their matches with Genk and Roma indicate that Dusan Bajevic’s side are not in Real’s class when it comes to entertainment. There has been speculation that Bajevic will operate a negative-looking 3-6-1 formation tonight in the hope of stifling the holders’ midfield but given the array of attacking talent available to Vicente dell Bosque, it is diifficult to see AEK holding out against the likes of Zidane Luis Figo and Raul.
AEK have some injury concerns. Former Inter defender Grigoris Georgatos who picked up a knock in training on Sunday, misses out. Mihalis Kassapis will start in his place. Striker Dimitris Nalitzis and defender Vassilis Borbokis are also doubtful as is Micheal Kreek who is not fully recovered from his injury. One piece of good news for the Greek side comes with the return from injury of veteran Nikos Kostenoglou.
Real followed their 6-0 win over Genk with a 1-1 draw with Valladolid at the weekend. So, they are not invincible, even if their Champions League form often gives that impression.
: Jiotis; Kostenoglu, Kapsis, Wright, Kasapis, Lakis; Zagorakis, Katsuranis; Tsartas, Nikolaidis, Ivic. Real Madrid:
Real Madrid: Casillas; Salgado, Helguera, Pav¢n, Roberto Carlos; Makelele, Cambiasso; Figo, Raul, Zidane, Guti.
Genk v Roma
Francesco Totti returns to Champions League action tonight as Roma look to kick-start their campaign at Genk.
The Roma captain has completed the suspension that ruled him out of the two opening Group C games, and his hat-trick on Saturday against Brescia, confirms that he is in prime form. And how his team need him. The opening day defeat at home to Real Madrid was followed by a disapppointing goalless drawwith AEK last week and although Roma are still in a good position to qualify, they need to start picking up points.
Genk received a wake-up call last week when they were hamemered 6-0 by Real Madrid, a result which confimred what many thought, namely, that their best hope of progressing in Europe this season will come via the UEFA Cup. With that in mind the Belgian side will be looking for a point tonight.
Genk coach Sef Vergoossen rested Beli Moumouni Dagano and Mirsad Beslija for last weekend’s macth with RAA Louvieroise but they along with midfield player Bernd Thijs who is available again after suspension, will return to face Roma.
For Roma coach Fabio Cappello, the main injury concern surrounds keeper Francesco Antonioli who twisted his ankle against against Brescia. With his regular deputy Ivan Pelizzoli still recovering from injury, Capello could be forced to hand a debut to youngster Carlo Zotti.
Cuurrenly lying in third position in the group, Roma desperately need too start picking up points if they are to avoid an unseemly scramble with AEK for runners-up sppot in the group. They will not get a better opportunity than against a Genk side, who showed last week that they are vulnerable at this level.
Probable teams: To be announced