The third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League may have come too soon for some of Europe's heavyweights as FC Bayern München, Manchester United FC and FC Barcelona are all hampered by injuries ahead of next week’s matches.
Roque Santa Cruz, Bixente Lizarazu, Sebastian Deisler, Owen Hargreaves and Zé Roberto are struggling to be fit for Bayern's encounter with either Swedish side Hammarby or Yugoslavia's FK Partizan. Paraguayan international Santa Cruz has an ankle injury requiring six weeks of treatment; Lizarazu has been told the muscle injury he suffered in Saturday's friendly against Karlsruher SC will take longer to heal than first thought; a knock to Brazilian midfield player Zé Roberto has compounded Bayern's problems down the left side; and England midfield player Owen Hargreaves is yet to fully recover from a knee injury sustained on FIFA World Cup duty in Korea/Japan.
Manchester United face either Croatians NK Zagreb or Hungarian side Zalaegerszegi TE in their qualifier, and coach Sir Alex Ferguson has concerns over the fitness of key players. A knee injury to Paul Scholes has forced him out of the tie, while David Beckham has admitted his foot injury is still troubling him. Ruud van Nistelrooij has been struggling with a shin problem and Fabien Barthez has a thigh injury, although both should be fit for next week's match.
Barcelona, who face either F.Y.R. Macedonia's FK Vardar or Polish team Legia Warszawa, have also been hit badly by injuries. Defender Patrick Andersson ruptured tendons in his left thigh early in the summer with the Sweden squad and he is three weeks from fitness; winger Marc Overmars had an operation on his right knee in May and is out until September; and Philip Cocu (achilles), Gabri (thigh) and new signing Juan Román Riquelme are also doubts.
Robert ruled out
Newcastle United FC will be without Laurent Robert for both legs of their third qualifying round tie against either Lillestrøm SK or NK Zeljeznicar. The French international winger has a stress fracture in his back and will be missing for at least two months. The injury will also keep him out of the opening matches of the first group stage should Newcastle progress that far.
First group phase
Even the big clubs who have qualified for the first group stage which kicks off on 17 and 18 September have plenty of work for their medical staff. Real Madrid CF midfielder Guti needs at least two weeks to recover from an ankle injury, while 1. Bundesliga champions BV Borussia Dortmund could be without striker Marcio Amoroso for six to eight weeks after he damaged his achilles tendon. German runners-up Bayer 04 Leverkusen brought in Brazilian Franca to replace Michael Ballack but now need a replacement for the former São Paulo FC player, who has suffered ankle damage and has flown back home for treatment.
Two months out for Totti
AS Roma talisman Francesco Totti is out for up to two months after injuring his left knee during a weekend friendly and AFC Ajax have been plunged into a goalkeeper crisis as their first choice, Bogdan Lobont, needs surgery on his left shoulder and back-up Joey Didulica has an ankle injury. To plug the gap, the aptly named Fred Grim has come out of retirement. FC Spartak Moscow have had bad news too, losing key Ukrainian defender Dmytro Parfionov for six months after he suffered a complicated leg fracture.
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