The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ballack may miss Deportivo test

La Coruna: Deportivo la Coruna coach Javier Irureta has been keen to portray his team as the underdogs ahead of their opening Champions League group G match at Germany’s Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

“Bayern are a fantastic team from another dimension,” Irureta said. “They were always a difficult team to beat in Munich and with their new signings they have become even more powerful.”

Among Bayern’s reinforcements are former Bayer Leverkusen pair Michael Ballack and Ze Roberto. Ballack, however, is uncertain with a foot injury.

Irureta said he was concerned by the effects that injuries and suspensions would have on his team who have been drawn alongside AC Milan and Lens in one of the toughest groups in the first phase of the competition.

“We have eight players unavailable at the moment and we are heading to Munich with a weakened squad that includes only 17 first team players,” he said.

Among the injured are first-choice ’keeper Jose Molina, Jorge Andrade, centre-back Cesar and striker Diego Tristan, while Lionel Scaloni and Aldo Duscher are suspended.

But Deportivo’s strength in depth means they still have a string of top class players ready to step in.

The experienced Juanmi will replace Molina, while veteran Donato and Joan Capdevila are ready to form the back-four with Noureddine Naybet and Hector.

Tristan was forced to withdraw from the squad on Tuesday morning with a suspected ankle problem and will be replaced by new signing and fellow Spanish international Albert Luque.

Bayern also have injury problems. French wing-back Bixente Lizarazu has been ruled out and Ballack is a doubtful starter. Lizarazu, hampered by back pain, could not train for the last two days.

Ballack sustained a left foot injury in Bayern’s 2-1 Bundesliga victory at Nuremberg on Saturday and also missed training on Sunday.

“We will do everything we can for him to be fit but we have little time left,” said coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.

Michael Tarnat was expected to step in for Lizarazu on the left side of the defence. England’s Owen Hargreaves would be an option if Ballack could not play.

Maccabi Haifa have made history by becoming the first Israeli side to qualify for the Champions League group stages and their game against Manchester United at Old Trafford is expected to bring the country to a standstill.

Haifa’s success has been taken as proof of the improvement of Israeli soccer and is being hailed as the greatest achievement for the sport since Israel played in their only World Cup finals in Mexico 1970.

Only two Haifa players have played at Old Trafford before — captain and central defender Ariel Benado, who took part in a testimonial for Sir Alex Ferguson in 1999, and midfielder Walid Badir, who during a short spell with Wimbledon in the same year scored a spectacular goal in a 1-1 Premier League draw.

“We will not be going there like lambs to the slaughter,” Badir said. “We have the best Israeli players in our squad and the best foreign players in the land, so we can go out and surprise them.”

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