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Fresh start but beware old faces

Published: Wednesday 15 September 2004, 17.52CET
Wednesday brings the first round of matches in Groups A to D but there are ghosts of the past at every turn.
Published: Wednesday 15 September 2004, 17.52CET

Fresh start but beware old faces

Wednesday brings the first round of matches in Groups A to D but there are ghosts of the past at every turn.

After Henrik Larsson's goalscoring return to Celtic Park with FC Barcelona last night, there will be a couple of other clubs whose supporters will be hoping the curse of the former favourite will not strike again in the UEFA Champions League tonight.

Ibrahimovic returns
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored 13 goals in 16 Eredivisie games to help Ajax win the title last season but the Swedish striker will line up in the Amsterdam ArenA in the colours of his new club Juventus FC. At the Riazor, meanwhile, Rivaldo returns to one of his old clubs, RC Deportivo La Coruña where he spent the 1996/97 season, with Olympiacos CFP, the Greek side he joined in the summer.

Past finals
It is not just the visits of old boys that will stir memories of the past. The Ajax-Juventus tie is one of two contests which offer repeats of previous European Champion Clubs' Cup finals. These sides met in 1973 and '96, winning one apiece. The meeting of Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Real Madrid CF recalls a more recent final, as it is only two years since Zinedine Zidane's sensational volley settled their showdown in Glasgow.

Looking forward
Of course, now is a time for looking forward and for Juventus coach Fabio Capello and AS Roma's Rudi Völler, this is their first taste of Champions League action since arriving at their new clubs this summer. Roma are at home to FC Dynamo Kyiv.

Reputation to restore
At Anfield, meanwhile, Rafael Benítez will begin the task of restoring Liverpool FC's reputation in Europe. A UEFA Cup winner with Valencia CF last season, Benítez's first task is to secure three points against AS Monaco FC, beaten finalists in this competition in May but now featuring a much-changed team.

Israeli landmark
Elsewhere, Felix Magath will be seeking a winning start as FC Bayern München visit Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC for the first Champions League match to be played in Israel; ditto František Straka in his first European match as AC Sparta Praha coach at Fenerbahçe SK, and Dusan Bajevic now back in charge at Olympiacos, who face Deportivo.

Ghost of the past
Last but not least, is the visit of Manchester United FC to Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade Gerland. Lyon new boy Sylvain Wiltord once scored a goal at Old Trafford that won Arsenal FC the English Premiership - anything but a favourite of United fans then, but potentially another old face that could come back to haunt someone.

Last updated: 15/09/04 21.36CET