| United will hope Van Nistelrooy’s form holds
Madrid: Raul will join the Real Madrid squad to face Uefa Cup holders FC Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday after passing a fitness test on the eve of the game.
The prolific Spanish striker missed Real’s 0-2 defeat by Valencia on Saturday because of a hip injury and was rated doubtful for the group F game away to Porto. But he was able to join his teammates for a practice match on Tuesday and was later named in a 21-man squad for the trip.
England captain Beckham, however, is definitely out of the frame after hurting his right foot while taking a free-kick in the Spanish champions’ 0-2 defeat to Valencia at the weekend.
Real are looking to consolidate in the second round of group F matches following their 4-2 home win over Marseille. On a brighter note for Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz, Ivan Helguera is expected to return after a fortnight out with a knee cartilage injury to form a defensive midfield partnership with Guti.
Bundesliga leaders VFB Stuttgart play host to Manchester United and Brazilian defender Marcelo Bordon will be handed the job of stopping United’s in-form striker Ruud van Nistelrooy. “He is a super striker,” said Bordon. “But I would not say he is the best. He is in the top ten.”
The match at the Gottlieb-Daimler Stadium will be policed by more than 1,000 officers. Between 2,000 and 3,000 United fans are expected to travel to southern Germany for the game which Uefa has classed as a potential risk.
Champions League newcomers Partizan Belgrade have warned French side Marseille to expect a surprise in the other group F match. Partizan put out Newcastle United in the qualifying rounds, and Newcastle’s tormentor Ivica Iliev says the 1-1 draw with FC Porto in their opening match has boosted confidence.
“I know who the favourites are but we have already taken a point off Porto and why should we stop there,” said Iliev.
Partizan have leaked eight goals in six matches in the Serb championship, but with classy midfielder Sasa Ilic and striker Andrija Delibasevic, Partizan could cause trouble for Marseille’s rearguard at the Velodrome Stadium.
Coach Lothar Matthaeus, who won a record 150 caps for Germany, has plenty of experience of international competition. “We’re ready to seize our chance at Marseille,” said the 1990 World Cup winner.
Scotland’s Rangers travel to meet Greek side Panathinaikos for their first European fixture since manager Alex McLeish signed a new four-year contract that will keep him at the Scottish treble winners until 2007.
Rangers made a dream start, winning their opening group E tie against Stuttgart, while Panathinaikos were thrashed 0-5 by Manchester United.
But Rangers’ Georgian striker Shota Arveladze is expecting a hostile reception in Greece.
“We know their supporters will try to intimidate us but we are used to playing in these situations and we will get on with it,” he said.
In group H, AC Milan will be travelling to Spain where they will clash with Celta Vigo. Brazilian Rivaldo has been included in Milan’s squad. and it remains to be seen whether he gets to start after many games. The 1995 winners Ajax of The Netherlands host Belgians FC Bruges with both clubs looking for their first win in group H.
Ajax fell 0-1 at AC Milan and Bruges could only draw 1-1 at home to Celta Vigo in the first round of matches. Chelsea’s return to the Champions League got off to a great start with a 1-0 win at Sparta Prague, thanks to William Gallas. Should they claim all three points at home to Turks Besiktas they would be set to earn their berth in the last 16 knockout stage from group G.
Lazio, who drew 2-2 at Empoli in Italian league action on Sunday leaving them in sixth place in the table, host Sparta Prague in the other group G fixture.