A car crash on Tuesday morning involving midfielder Hugo Viana provided a scare for Sporting Clube de Portugal in the build-up to tonight's opening Group D match against Panionios NFC.
Fortunately, Viana escaped unhurt and is fit for action as Sporting welcome a Greek side who changed their coach after the defeat by Newcastle United FC a fortnight ago. Georgios Vazakas, who took over following Karol Pecze's dismissal, is targeting "a win or draw" at the Estádio José Alvalade and stressed that: "We respect Sporting but must not fear them."
A 4-0 defeat against Panathinaikos FC was not the ideal preparation, however, and the loss of defensive midfielder Alexandros Tziolis after he suffered a thigh injury in training last night will not have helped. Andreas Lagonikakis will take his place, while fit-again goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobný is hoping to come back in for Sorin Colceag.
Winning start vital
Sporting warmed up for the tie by beating Penafiel FC 3-0 at the weekend and their Brazilian midfield player Rogério said a winning start here was vital: "In this format, it's crucial to get the home points. We are confident, our form is improving and we don't want that to change."
Dinamo visit Newcastle
As for the other tie, Newcastle manager Graeme Souness had to rely on video footage of FC Dinamo Tbilisi as he planned for the Georgian side's visit. After studying their 2-0 home defeat by FC Sochaux-Montbéliard, Souness said: "Apart from their goalkeeper and centre-half who are very experienced, they look a young side."
Nicky Butt remains suspended but Titus Bramble should return in central defence for Newcastle, who suffered their first defeat under Souness at the weekend. As for Dinamo, youngster Jaba Kankava is available again after suspension but David Chichveishvili is banned.
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