| FERGUSON: Expecting a tough match
Paris: Manchester United go gunning for revenge on Tuesday when they travel to Bayer Leverkusen for a Champions League reunion with the side that beat them in the semi-finals of the 2001-02 tournament.
Leverkusen thoroughly deserved to take their place in last year’s final, but it will be a very different side that United encounter in the Bay Arena.
The Germans have been seriously weakened by the summer departures of Michael Ballack, arguably the best midfielder in Europe last season, and Brazilian wingback Ze Roberto.
Both stars now ply their trade for Bayern Munich and their loss has been cruelly underlined by Leverkusen’s poor start to the season.
Klaus Topmoller’s men are currently fourth from bottom of the Bundesliga after three defeats in six matches and they suffered a shock 2-6 hammering in their opening Champions League match against Olympiakos last week.
Another defeat on Tuesday would leave Leverkusen on the brink of elimination, but United boss Alex Ferguson is still expecting a tough encounter.
“They are obviously missing Ballack and Ze Roberto,” he said. “When you lose two players like that it is a big loss. It is the same with us a little bit. We have been without Gary Neville this season, Paul Scholes hasn’t been right and Roy Keane is out.
“That takes the substance out of your team and it shows you what Leverkusen are going through. They are not getting the consistency of results they think they deserve.
“We know how much resilience German sides have shown over the years and you would expect them to regroup quickly. Their coach is a good coach and we expect a hard game. We will not be going there thinking they have fallen apart because of one result. It doesn’t work like that.”
United go into the clash looking like they are beginning to recover their form after the 5-2 home win over Maccabi Haifa last week and a weekend Premiership defeat of Tottenham.
But Ferguson remains concerned about the failure of his strikers to take their chances.
Defensively, he has Gary available again. The England fullback, who has played more Champions League football than any other player, has been out of action since the last meeting with Leverkusen, when he broke a bone in his foot.
The injury kept him out of the World Cup but Gary returned to action when he came on as a substitute against Tottenham on Saturday and is expected to start in Germany while Frenchman Laurent Blanc, rested on Saturday because of an ankle knock, is set to return.
Newcastle are on a high on the run-up to their clash with Uefa Cup champions Feyenoord on Tuesday.
The north easterners beat arch rivals Sunderland 2-0 in the Premiership at the weekend through goals by Alan Shearer and Craig Bellamy and there is little that delights a Newcastle fan more than a victory over their neighbours.
The Magpies will need all the confidence they can get against the Dutch side who drew 1-1 with Juventus last week in group E, thanks to a late equaliser from Pierre van Hooijdonk.
Feyenoord are on a 13-match unbeaten run in Europe and skipper Paul Bosvelt should return to their midfield.
Meanwhile, Bellamy faces disciplinary action from Uefa after allegedly headbutting Kiev’s Tiberiu Ghioane at the end of last week’s match that Kiev won 2-0.
A decision from Uefa’s control and disciplinary body is expected on Wednesday.
Italian champions Juventus host Dynamo Kiev in the other match of the group.
Kiev, runners-up in the Ukraine championship last season, only managed a 1-1 with city rivals, newly-promoted Obolon at the weekend.
Worryingly for Kiev, Yyury Dmitrulin, Alexander Holovko, Valentin Bialkevich, Vladislav Vashchuk, Vasyl Kardash and Alexander Radchenko are all out injured.
Deportivo la Coruna, who top the pool, host five-time European champions AC Milan. Deportivo’s Dutch striker Roy Makaay is on a roll having scored seven goals in a week, including all three goals in their defeat of Bayern last Wednesday.
Deportivo’s Juan Carlos Valeron, however, will not be starting against Milan on Tuesday after fracturing his fibula during side’s 2-0 win over Valladolid on Saturday. He may be out for at least two months.
The Spanish international fractured his fibula after a reckless challenge from Bolivian defender Juan Manuel Pena.
Bayern Munich’s Peruvian international Claudio Pizarro is doubtful for their trip to French club Lens in group G. Pizarro has a knee injury and can only manage light training.
“Pizarro is doubtful for the match,” said Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld. “We’ll give him a late fitness test the day of the match.”
However Sebastian Deisler, Paraguayan Roque Santa Cruz and French international Bixente Lizarazu are still out injured. Russian league leaders Lokomotiv Moscow travel to Belgian club Bruges and Turks Galatasaray host Barcelona in group H matches.