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Poborský may miss reunion

Published: Monday 18 October 2004, 21.45CET
AC Sparta Praha winger Karel Poborský's hopes of facing former club Manchester United FC are in doubt.

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Published: Monday 18 October 2004, 21.45CET

Poborský may miss reunion

AC Sparta Praha winger Karel Poborský's hopes of facing former club Manchester United FC are in doubt.

By Sam Beckwith in Prague

Inspirational AC Sparta Praha midfield player Karel Poborský's hopes of renewing his acquaintance with former club Manchester United FC in Tuesday's Group D meeting between the two teams, are in doubt.

Late decision
The Czech international aggravated a calf injury on Saturday while helping his team to a 2-0 win against city rivals SK Slavia Praha - another of the player's former clubs. "I admit that the problem exists," Poborský said. “But I will wait until [the day of the game] to make my decision."

Opening defeats
A neck injury ruled the 32-year-old out of Sparta's Matchday 1 defeat by Fenerbahçe SK, a side subsequently beaten 6-2 by United, and his absence would be a major blow to the Czech team's hopes of picking up their first points of the campaign, having lost at home three weeks ago to Olympique Lyonnais

Straka not scared
Coach František Straka is not sounding the alarm bells just yet, however. "It would be premature to be scared at this moment," he said. "We need to wait until the last practice and that will show us what we are up against."

Poborský worry
For Poborský, though, missing out on the chance to play his former club in Prague would be a major disappointment. "I would be particularly sorry if I missed this one," said the man who joined United after EURO '96™ but left 18 months later after being kept out of the side by the blossoming David Beckham.

Happy memories
Despite that experience, the Sparta player has no bitterness towards the English club or to his former manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. "My memories are only good," he said. "I spent one and a half years there and I only left to play regularly. In my opinion, they are the greatest team in the world and I am honoured to have had the chance to play there."

'Good lad'
Sir Alex himself praised Poborský's attitude during that difficult spell. "I was pleased with the way he played for us," he said. "He's a terrific professional and a good lad. He never gave us any problems and when he left we all wished him well." Without Poborský, who last week missed the Czech Republic’s FIFA World Cup victories against Romania and Armenia, Straka would face an even tougher challenge against a team he regards as "enormously strong".

Flank threat
As a winger himself, Poborský, for his part, appreciates the threat that United pose down the flanks via Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo. "We cannot play too wide," he said. "They are extremely strong on the wings." Straka, however, remains optimistic of taking something from the game, and does not want to take too negative an approach.

United absentees
"It is very difficult to say what tactics we'll play but we'll set up our own system," he explained. "We are playing at home, so we will do our best to make chances and score." United, meanwhile, have problems of their own, and will be missing captain Roy Keane who has a virus, and central defender Rio Ferdinand who is attending his grandmother's funeral.

'Important game'
Patchy form has left United eleven points adrift of Premiership leaders Arsenal FC ahead of Sunday's meeting of the two teams, but Ferguson has promised that that game would not distract his side from the task in Prague. "European football is an important issue," he said. "It does not matter if it is Sparta Praha or anyone else. The big focus is on next Sunday and the big game in England but that is not to forget there is an important game against Sparta."

Last updated: 19/10/04 19.02CET