Preview-Barcelona begin title defense against newcomers Levski Sofia

الثلاثاء، 12 سبتمبر 2006 - 11:49

كتب : Mohamed Sabe

Ronnie unimpressed by Chelsea

European champions Barcelona are ready to take on the continent in an effort to retain their continental title.

The Spanish champions couldn't have asked for a better opener than against debutants Levski Sofia in the 'group of death' that includes big-spenders Chelsea and Werder Bremen.

Barcelona are on a steady road to regain their top-form which seemed to have been lost when they were on the receiving side of a 3-0 defeat to compatriots Sevilla in the European Super Cup.

But a 3-0 win over Osasuna in La Liga on Saturday, courtesy of a Samuel Eto'o brace and a Lionel Messi strike, is an indication of what Frank Rijkaard's men are prepared to do against minnows Levski.

Despite being considered outsiders, Levski seem determined to make an impact and coach Stanimir Stoilov is confident of his team's ability despite the underdog tag.

Chelsea, on the other hand, have a relatively tougher task when they host Werder Bremen at Stamford Bridge.

Even without top-scorer Miroslav Klose, who is doubtful for the game through a thigh injury, Bremen remain a menace for any team they play.

Marshaled by Brazilian midfielder Diego, who was brought in from Porto to replace Johan Micoud, Bremen have a strong attack which includes the likes of Ivan Klasnic and Mohamed Zidan.

But Chelsea seem to have the Champions League title in sight after the Premiership became a walk in the park for the London-based club.

They secured the signature of world-class players like Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko, Ashley Cole and Khalid Boulahrouz and also recruited talented young players like John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou.

BALLACK-LESS BAYERN

Bayern Munich are yet to prove they can live up to their status as one of Europe's best without inspirational playmaker Ballack who left to Chelsea.

And while the Bavarian giants look certain to get past Spartak Moscow in their opening Group B match and, coach Felix Magath acknowledged the hardship the team will face after the group stage.

"We are just expected to get past the group stage. After that, it depends on the draw," Magath told German magazine Kicker.

Meanwhile, Inter Milan will have to live up to their status as Italian champions, after Juventus were demoted to Serie B for their role in the local match-fixing scandal.

So far, the Nerazzurri have proven they have stamina.

Recovering from a 3-0 deficit to beat AS Roma 4-3 in the Italian Super Cup and holding out to a 3-2 win over Fiorentina in the Serie A opener on Saturday, Inter are considered one of the toughest teams in the competition.

Inter made the best of the match-fixing scandal and landed Juventus duo Patrick Vieira and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

They also complemented their squad with high-caliber players like Hernan Crespo from Chelsea, Fabio Grosso from Palermo, Olivier Dacourt and Brazilian defender Maicon.

They kick-off the competition by facing Portuguese champions Sporting, powered by phenomenal goalkeeper Ricardo.

Inter will have to cope without Argentinean duo Esteban Cambiasso and Julio Cruz who will miss the game through injury.

PSV SEE RED

Former champions Liverpool have a score to settle with PSV Eindhoven coach Ronald Koeman who was the reason the Reds were dethroned last season.

Koeman guided Benfica to the Champions League quarter-finals last season before returning home to take charge of PSV.

Liverpool will have to work on securing their back-line, which cost them a 3-0 crushing from Everton in the local derby on Saturday.

But Reds' coach Rafael Benitez seems thankful he was able to detect the crisis ahead of Tuesday's game.

"We need to improve in defense, that is very clear, and it's good that after Saturday's defeat we have a game against PSV Eindhoven so we can put things right," he said. ارشيف UEFA Champions League Barcelona bayern munich chelsea werder bremen bordeaux Roma valencia

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