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Thefc100’s Champions League Preview and Fixtures: Tuesday 18/09/07

Tuesday Fixtures….. 

  • Marseille Vs Besiktas   (Group A)
  • FC Porto Vs Liverpool  
  • Chelsea  Vs Rosenborg   (Group B)
  • FC Shalke 04 Vs Valencia  
  • Real Madid Vs Werder Bremen (Group C)
  • Olympiacos Vs Lazio  
  • Milan  Vs Benfica  (Group D)
  • Shakhtar Donetsk Vs Celtic  

Tuesday’s  Preview…..

FC Porto Vs Liverpool…..Liverpool travel to a notoriously hard place for English teams to gain points in recent years when they face FC Porto at the Estadio do Dragao on Tuesday night. The sides had contrasting fortunes at the weekend with Porto heading to the top of their league with a 1-0 win over Maritimo (a top of the table clash), the goal coming from striker Lisandro Lopez. Liverpool could only secure a point at Portsmouth and rarely looked like scoring in the 0-0 draw; Benitez will hope for better this time around.

Porto View: Lucho Gonzalez told Uefa.com:  It’s good to play against such a strong team. Liverpool are very difficult opponents but we think we are ready. Of course, they have a very strong defence and they are very good at counterattacking but we hope to impose our own style. We are very good at making goalscoring chances.

Liverpool View: Rafael Benitez: It is clear that the perfect situation is to get to the last game and already be qualified for the next stage Last season we achieved that and….this is something we must achieve regularly. We are not thinking of drawing this one. I feel we need 12 points to get through to the next stage….If we win our three home games and then achieve one away win, that should be enough.

Marseille Vs Besiktas…….Marseille kick off their first Champions League campaign for four years on the back of an awful start to the Ligue 1 so far this term. Defeat at home to Toulouse left the French side lying 15th without a home win so far this season. They will hope to kickstart their season with a victory over in-form Besiktas who currently lie second in the Süper Lig despite a draw with bottom club Ankaraspor AS at the weekend.

Chelsea Vs Rosenborg….Chelsea head in to the first game of the group stage missing the influential Drogba and Lampard. After the same two missed Saturday’s scoreless draw with Blackburn, quesions were asked as to the London side’s ability to break down opposition without the missing duo. However, Andriy Shevchenko’s goalscoring record is pretty handy in Europe and we fancy him to register his first goal, assuming Mourinho doesn’t drop him (again).

Chelsea View: Jose Mourinho: It’s important to start the group with a victory, we did it against Werder Bremen last season. It’s important that we’re going to play thinking about winning the game. Of course we’ll be respecting the opponent, but we think we’re the better team and we want to win the game.

Rosenborg View: Knut Tørum: We have to take away Chelsea’s strength, speed and power which is at a higher level than we normally face in Norway, but at the same time carry out our own attacks so we don’t just allow Chelsea to keep coming at us. But the group is so strong it will be very difficult for us to go through. Not that he’s making excuses already…..

FC Shalke Vs Valencia…Shalke currently lie eighth in the Bundesliga, courtesy of one win and four draws, an unbeaten start to the season. Having secured a point in Saturday’s clash with league leaders Bayern Munich, Shalke will go into the game with confidence, unlike, perhaps, their opponents Valencia who were booed off by their fans after a poor performance in the 2-1 win over Real Valladolid. However, the Spanish team were quarter-finalists last year and certainly possess the quality in attack to trouble the Germans on home soil.

Real Madrid Vs Werder Bremen….Real enter the game in top form with a 100% record in La Liga and all guns firing so far under new coach Bernd Schuster. Arjen Robben could make his debut to make Schuster even more popular with the fans but Werder Bremen have enough Champions League experience from recent years to offer the home side problems. However the German side have injuries to key players and with the likes of Christophe Mezelder (Real Madrid) and Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich) having left the club, this game may prove to be a write-off for the visitors.

Olympiacos Vs Lazio….Olympiacos come into this game having last played a competitive fixture on September 2nd. While manager and players alike insist they are well prepared, a combination of poor fitness and the game being played behind closed doors  (a result of crowd trouble last season) may see the Greek side struggle to halt the form of the last two seasons in which they have lost their opening game of the group. Lazio have opened Serie A in poor form, drawing each of their three fixtures, however they may profit from the home side’s lack of playing time in recent weeks due to the International break and recent elections.

Milan Vs Benfica….Last season’s champions kick-start their campaign at home to Benfica and having rested the likes of Kaka, Inzaghi and Ambrosini for the weekend draw with Siena, they clearly want to retain their trophy this term. All three will return for this tie but Maldini, Ronaldo and the playmaker Andrea Pirlo will all miss out through injury. Milan currently lie fifth in Serie A with one win and two draws but will fancy their chances at home to the Portugese. Benfica are in terrific domestic form having enjoyed recent back-to-back 3-0 successes and with former Milan maestro Rui Costa amongst their staff they have a man capable of unlocking their more illustrious opponents. Benfica too though have injury problems, and coach José Antonio Camacho may prioritise the games against the weaker opponents in group D.

Shakhtar Donetsk Vs Celtic….Shakhtar come into this tie on the back of eight straight wins in the Ukrainian Premier League and with the advantage (at this stage of the competition) of being well into their domestic season, unlike their opponents Celtic who are just six games into the new season, albeit top of the table and unbeaten thus far. The Ukranians won 3-0 when these sides met here back in 2004 and Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu has emphasised the importance of a good start against the Scottish side who hold a poor away record in Europe.

Shakhtar View: Mircea Lucescu: We need a good start to the group stage. Celtic are stronger than three years ago when we last met in the Champions League, but so are we. Celtic and Shakhtar have differing styles. Celtic are physically strong and well organised; they run from the first whistle until the very last, just like Gordon Strachan did in his playing days. We are more technical and it will be a battle of styles.

Celtic View: Gordan Strachan: It took Milan more than 100 minutes to score against us [in the last 16 last season] and we had a good match at Spartak. I can’t account for all Celtic teams but I think we’ve improved over the last couple of years. I would say most sides in the Champions League have a better home record than away record. All we can do is concentrate on our form – our side of the equation.

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