Spain's RC Celta de Vigo are wary of the threat from Czech league leaders SK Slavia Praha as they prepare for their debut in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.
Slavia visit the Balaídos stadium for the first leg of their third qualifying round tie with memories still fresh in Celta minds of their last meeting with Czech opponents. In the 2001/02 UEFA Cup, Celta overcame SK Sigma Olomouc in the first round but then lost against FC Slovan Liberec, going down 3-0 in Liberec after a 3-1 home win.
Midfield player Jesuli said: "Two years ago in the UEFA Cup the Czech sides gave us a lot of problems. We know Slavia are a very physical team and to get a result we'll have to play well." It was vital, he added, "that we don't concede a goal at home but even with that it will be difficult to win the tie in Vigo".
Top of the table
Celta coach Miguel Ángel Lotina will be without the suspended Peter Luccin and injured Gustavo López. Slavia have already started their domestic campaign and, despite resting seven players on Saturday, Miroslav Beránek's men recorded a third successive win, beating FC Zlín 2-0 to go top of the table.
Captain Richard Dostálek said: "The fact our season began earlier is an advantage." This is Slavia's fourth attempt to qualify for the Champions League and they beat Bosnia-Herzegovina's FK Leotar 4-1 on aggregate in the last round.
If Celta are newcomers to Europe's premier club competition, four-times winners AFC Ajax need little introduction. Ronald Koeman's side visit Austria's Grazer AK without captain Jari Litmanen, who has an achilles injury, and also defender John O'Brien and goalkeeper Sander Boschker.
New strike pairing
In Litmanen's absence, Rafael van der Vaart is expected to wear the captain's armband and Koeman may start with Zlatan Ibrahimovic alongside summer recruit Wesley Sonck in attack. "They have got the quality so I would risk playing them together for the first time," said Koeman.
Schachner wants 1-0
Their opponents, GAK, were comfortable 7-2 aggregate winners against Albania's KF Tirana in the second qualifying round and have begun the domestic season with three straight wins. Coach Walter Schachner said his "dream result" would be a 1-0 win but he is without Nigerian forward Benedict Akwuegbu, who will miss the match following the death of his father.
Dynamo meet Dinamo
Tuesday's other tie pits Ukrainian champions FC Dynamo Kyiv against Croatia's NK Dinamo Zagreb. Dinamo came from behind to beat Slovenia's NK Maribor 2-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate in the second qualifying round last week.
According to Dynamo's Croatian international, Jerko Leko, they will face an even tougher task this time round. "I am sure we have everything we need to go through," said Leko. "Our chances of success are about 70 to 30." Olexiy Mykhaylichenko's side warmed up for the match on Saturday by beating FC Ugoliok Dimitrov 7-0 in the Ukrainian Cup.
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