Sparta Prague v Fenerbahce
Fenerbahce must win this game in order to keep alive their slim hopes of qualification, but they must also hope that Manchester United fail to beat Lyon.
More realistically the hosts will want to overcome their Czech Republic opponents in order to secure a place in the UEFA Cup draw.
With only a point and two goals to show from the first four games, Sparta Prague are fighting only for third spot.
Tonight they are missing talismanic skipper Karel Poborsky following his sending off in the match against Manchester United. Jiri Homola is suspended having picked up a yellow card in the same fixture.
Added to this, Pavel Pergl is rated a major doubt by coach Frantisek Straka having picked up an injury at the weekend.
It is Poborsky’s absence that worries coach Straka most though.
He said: “We will miss him badly, he is a team leader. But there is no point beating ourselves up over it, we are going to have to come to terms with it.”
Poborsky also sat out Sparta’s opening group match defeat at Fenerbahçe through injury. But while Straka favoured Miroslav Baranek as Poborsky’s replacement in Istanbul, this time he is set to start with Jan Simák on the right of midfield.
The talented Simák has been a bit-part player at Sparta for much of the season, struggling to regain full fitness since returning to Czech football after a difficult spell in Germany. Straka, however, believes that Simák’s performance in Saturday’s 3-1 league win against FK Jablonec 97 proved that the 26-year-old is worth a place.
Straka said: “He is getting better from game to game,”
For Fenerbahce there is a huge question mark over Pierre van Hooijdonk’s involvement after the Dutchman sat out the weekend win over Trabzonspor. The former Celtic star has an Achilles problem.
It was van Hooijdonk’s goal that won the corresponding fixture in Turkey but Fenerbahçe have not built on their good start. Since then they have lost 6-2 at United and then gone down 3-1 and 4-2 in matches against Lyon.
Three points in Prague, and defeat for United at home to Lyon, would leave Fenerbahçe still able to go through to the last 16 with a victory against the English side in Istanbul on Matchday 6. However, Fenerbahçe coach Christoph Daum has already ruled out overhauling United and is focusing on securing a UEFA Cup campaign.
He said: “Before the Champions League, I said it would be very difficult for us to succeed and I was harshly criticised for that.
“We will do what we can to win. But that is the reality. This team needs two more years before it can compete in a competition like this. We can succeed in the UEFA Cup though.”