Reason to celebrate
The Spanish champions have had reason to celebrate already this week with the news of Michel Salgado resisting the chance of a seat on Chelsea FC's expensive bandwagon and instead joining Raúl González and Guti in agreeing a new contract.
Add the fact Luís Figo turns 31 today and the Group F leaders, one of only two sides with maximum points, can make it a triple celebration by overcoming Partizan, although the Serbo-Montenegrin champions' coach, Lothar Matthäus, has promised a "more offensive" approach than in the 1-0 defeat in Madrid a fortnight ago.
'Do or die'
Partizan are one of six sides yet to win in the group stage and for one of the others, Panathinaikos FC, failure to beat Group E leaders VfB Stuttgart in Athens will end their interest in the competition. "
It's do or die for us," admitted their coach, Itzhak Shum, who has called on the home supporters in the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium to act as a "our 12th man".
Magath's lucky venue
However, Stuttgart have travelled in good heart after going top of the Bundesliga last weekend and for coach Felix Magath, Athens may be considered a lucky venue given his goal won Hamburger SV the European Champion Clubs' Cup there 20 years ago.
Rangers head south
Elsewhere in Group E second meets third as Manchester United FC welcome Rangers FC to Old Trafford having already won in Glasgow, while Madrid's closest challengers in Group F, FC Porto, seek a second win against Olympique de Marseille at Das Antas.
Italian interest tonight will centre on S.S. Lazio's meeting with Chelsea, who lead the most closely contested section, Group G. Chelsea are two points clear of both Lazio and AC Sparta Praha, who visit Turkish champions Besiktas JK, a further point behind.
Finally to Group H where Club Brugge KV will hope to prove that lightning can strike twice as AC Milan arrive at the Jan Breydelstadion aiming to avenge their 1-0 defeat at San Siro. Both sides have four points, two behind AFC Ajax who will look to maintain their advantage at the top of the section away to an RC Celta de Vigo side yet to record a win in Europe's premier club competition.
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