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Hat-trick men stir slow starters

Published: Wednesday 2 October 2002, 11.52CET
Liverpool FC and AS Roma chase their first UEFA Champions League wins of the season tonight.
Published: Wednesday 2 October 2002, 11.52CET

Hat-trick men stir slow starters

Liverpool FC and AS Roma chase their first UEFA Champions League wins of the season tonight.

After poor starts to UEFA Champions League campaigns that promised so much, Liverpool FC and AS Roma will be desperate to take advantage of the return to form of their respective strikers in their Matchday Three games tonight.

Kick-start campaigns
Liverpool's Michael Owen and Francesco Totti of Roma both scored hat-tricks in their domestic leagues at the weekend and will be aiming to take that goalscoring form into tonight's matches as the runners-up from England and Italy attempt to kick-start their faltering European seasons.

Must win
Liverpool host FC Spartak Moskva in a game they must win if they harbour any ambitions of progressing to the second group phase, as they currently have just one point from two Group B games after last week's disappointing home draw with FC Basel. And with Owen finding his scoring touch with three goals against Manchester City FC on Saturday their hopes will be raised.

Yet to score
So too those of Roma, who also have a solitary point and have yet to score in Group C. They travel to KRC Genk tonight after Totti secured their first win of the Serie A season on Sunday with three goals at Brescia Calcio. Totti was suspended for Roma's first two group games – a 3-0 home defeat by Real Madrid CF and a 0-0 draw at AEK Athens - and his return will undoubtedly lift his side.

Three out of three?
Conversely, the Spanish and English champions, Valencia CF and Arsenal FC, and the holders, Madrid, will attempt to make it three wins out of three tonight and all but secure a second group phase place. Valencia host Basel who have made a spirited start to their first Champions League campaign with a win and a draw, but lack the experience of a Valencia side that reached the final in 2000 and 2001.

Irresistible Arsenal
In Group A, AJ Auxerre have the unenviable task of subduing an irresistible Arsenal side who travel to France on the back of two away wins that have seen them rattle up eight goals. They beat PSV Eindhoven 4-0 on Matchday Two and Leeds United AFC 4-1 at the weekend. Should Arsenal win, victory for either PSV or BV Borussia Dortmund in the group's other game would make second place their own and significantly improve their chances of progression.

Imperious form
Madrid, who are also in imperious form, at least in Europe with two victories and nine unanswered goals, travel to AEK in Group C looking to break down the Greek side's stubborn defence. AEK have yet to concede in the Champions League but have also yet to score. Tonight they will have to be at their meanest to keep out Madrid's frightening attack - even one without the injured Ronaldo.

Tight group
In Group D, the tightest of the competition, Internazionale FC host Olympique Lyonnais and AFC Ajax travel to Rosenborg BK. Just three points separate all four teams so any victories tonight would take on added significance.

Last updated: 02/10/02 21.40CET

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