Klose in doubt for Chelsea match

The quest for European club football’s ultimate prize begins on Tuesday as Match Day One starts an enthralling group stage.

Ashley Cole: a part of Chelsea's welcoming commitee
Ashley Cole: a part of Chelsea's welcoming commitee

Werder Bremen striker Miroslav Klose has claimed he is under an injury cloud for his side’s crunch opening UEFA Champions League Group A fixture against English giants Chelsea after sustaining a thigh injury on Saturday.

The reigning Bundesliga top scorer and World Cup golden boot winner will be a key man for the German side who face the daunting task of qualifying from a group that contains both Chelsea and reigning champions Barcelona.

“If the game was today (Monday), I could not play,” Klose admitted.

Should the Polish born striker withdraw his place is likely to be taken by Egyptian international striker Mohamed Zidan or Portuguese forward Hugo Almeida.

Chelsea’s own German influence, midfielder Michael Ballack, believes the side containing may of his international teammates could be one to watch.

“As a team, seven or eight players have stayed together now for two or three years, so they’ve grown together. Now they are very strong,” the former Bayern Munich player said ahead of Tuesday’s match in London.
“Some days they can play very, very well. They are a team that thinks very offensively.
“They want to score every game. But sometimes they give chances to the other team, they make mistakes in defence. At Munich, we lost three years ago at home. They won 3-0 and they won the national title too.”

The other Group A match sees Barcelona host Bulgaria’s Levski Sofia at the Camp Nou.

Moscow in Munich

Group B sees German powerhouse Bayern Munich host Spartak Moscow while Sporting Lisbon entertain the newly crowned Italian champions Inter Milan who will look to bring some creditibility back to their country’s club football scene.

In Group C, Liverpool will face their rematch with Dutch manager Ronald Koeman without midfielder John Arne Riise after the Norwegian succumbed to yet another ankle injury.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez included defenders Daniel Agger and Gabriel Paletta as well as firebrand striker Craig Bellamy in his squad.

PSV Eindhoven coach Koeman takes charge of the side after new Russian coach Guus Hiddink left the post in the close season. The former Benfica manager masterminded the Reds’ exit from the competition last season.

“Welcome to Hell”

French side Bordeaux travel to Istanbul to face Turkish champions Galatasaray in the other Group C match with the home side struggling to find their best form.

“Such bad football ahead of the Bordeaux match is alarming,” vice-president Adnan Polat said after the weekend’s 1-1 draw against Denizlispor.

Despite the lack of domestic form, the Turkish side will again be looking for its daunting home crowd to give them an advantage. More than 70,000 tickets have already been sold at Ataturk Stadium which is famous for its footballing motto directed towards visiting teams – “Welcome to Hell”.

Italian side Roma will look for a fresh start in European football when they meet Ukrainian team Shaktar Donetsk at the Olympic Stadium.

Despite finishing their domestic season outside of the Champions League qualifying places, Luciano Spalletti’s side was promoted to second place after Juventus, AC Milan and Fiorentina were all found guilty of match fixing.

They have a troubled past in Europe themselves after their disastrous campaign in the 2004/05 season.

Their opening match against Dynamo Kiev ended in farce after referee Anders Frisk was forced to abandon the match after being hit with a projectile. UEFA ordered the Italian side to play its remaining games behind closed doors and the side took just a point from its next five games to finish bottom of their group.

“We will do everything we can to put the past behind us,” announced coach Spalletti.

Champions League runners up in 2000 and 2001 Valencia travel to Greece to round out the matches on Match Day One where they play Greek giants Olympiakos who have won nine out of the past ten Greek league titles but have struggled to show any of that dominance in European competition.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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