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Kralj misses historic night

Published: Monday 15 September 2003, 20.09CET
FK Partizan will be without Ivica Kralj, their hero in qualifying, when they welcome FC Porto to Belgrade.

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Published: Monday 15 September 2003, 20.09CET

Kralj misses historic night

FK Partizan will be without Ivica Kralj, their hero in qualifying, when they welcome FC Porto to Belgrade.

FK Partizan coach Lothar Matthäus will be without qualifying round hero Ivica Kralj when the Serbo-Montenegrin champions welcome UEFA Cup holders FC Porto to Belgrade in UEFA Champions League Group F on Tuesday.

Partizan landmark
It will be an historic night in Belgrade. Partizan were involved in the first ever European Champion Clubs' Cup match back in 1955 and now, nearly 50 years later, they will be making history again by becoming the first Serbian club to appear in the group stage of Europe's premier football competition since its inception in 1992/93.

Radakovic replacement
Kralj was the man who made Partizan's participation here a reality, saving two penalties in the shoot-out victory against Newcastle United FC in the third qualifying round - thus completing an unlikely comeback for Matthäus' men after they had lost the first leg 1-0 in Belgrade. However, he damaged his left thigh during the 3-2 weekend victory against OFK Beograd and will be replaced by Radovan Radakovic.

Malbaša missing
Also missing, through suspension, will be defender Nikola Malbaša but Matthäus's favoured 3-5-2 formation will not be affected. Indeed, the German is in a buoyant mood. "We are looking forward to this match and I think that whole city is living for the start of the first Champions League game in the capital of Serbia-Montenegro," Matthäus said.

'Defining match'
He added: "This match will define the competition for us. A victory is our wish and a draw would be a very satisfactory result. Still, I have told my players to play for a win, although we know that anywhere above fourth in the group would be a spectacular achievement."

Friends reunited
Tuesday's match will pit Partizan forward Ljubinko Drulovic against the club he was with for seven years from 1994. "Porto have an excellent team and high ambitions so we have to be patient and wait for our chance," he said.

Massive task
Porto coach José Mourinho has a massive task to top last season's treble-winning achievements but will be aided on Tuesday by the return of key men Costinha, Deco and Benni McCarthy. The trio missed the 3-1 weekend victory against UD Leiria but will take their places in the imposing atmosphere of the Partizan stadium.

Alenichev and Tiago missing
Dmitri Alenichev and Tiago are both missing through injury while Mourinho has found no room in his 19-man squad for Bruno Moraes, Hugo Almeida and Carlos Secretário - an indication of the strength in depth at the club who have started their SuperLiga campaign with three wins and a draw in their opening four games.

'Physically strong'
"Partizan are a very good team and their elimination of Newcastle tells us a lot about them," said Mourinho, who stressed he did not consider his side favourites. "Motivation will be a huge bonus for the home team and their fans will be a great help, too. Still, we are not afraid - we've faced the same type of crowd in Athens and Rome so the atmosphere won't be problem for us," he said.

Tactical battle
Passions may run high but Mourinho expects cool heads will be required for a tactical battle. The Porto coach said he expected to have to "modify our strategy during the match", against a "well-prepared" Partizan side who "often change their tactics".

Last updated: 16/09/03 12.46CET