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Standard lifted by early omens

Published: Thursday 7 October 2004, 14.50CET
Group B focus: Belgian side R. Standard de Liège are arguably the form team, with Parma FC starting slowly.
 
 
Published: Thursday 7 October 2004, 14.50CET

Standard lifted by early omens

Group B focus: Belgian side R. Standard de Liège are arguably the form team, with Parma FC starting slowly.

uefa.com assesses the form of the sides in UEFA Cup Group B ahead of the opening matches on 21 October.

* PARMA FC

Having overcome financial problems to finish fifth last season, Parma FC went into October still awaiting their first Serie A win this term. New coach Silvio Baldini is using the same 4-2-3-1 formation deployed in 2003/04 by Cesare Prandelli, although promising defenders Cesare Bovo and Damiano Ferronetti have replaced the more experienced Matteo Ferrari and Marcello Castellini while Brazilian Simplicio and Australian Vincenzo Grella are the new names in a midfield which lost Simone Barone during the summer.

Parma did manage to retain several key players, including Sebastian Frey, Daniele Bonera and striker Alberto Gilardino, who struck 24 goals last season and led Italy to victory at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship. But after a busy summer involving the U21 tournament and the Olympic Games, Gilardino has struck just once in Serie A this season, and fellow forward Massimo Maccarone, signed from Middlesbrough FC, has suffered a meniscus injury and will be out of action for about a month.

Also sidelined is winger Mark Bresciano with a slight muscle injury but he is almost ready to return in action in time for Parma's Matchday 1 trip to Athletic Club Bilbao. Parma defeated NK Maribor 3-2 on aggregate in the first round to reach this stage.

* BESIKTAS JK

Having collected only six points in their opening eight Turkish Superleague games, Besiktas JK are enduring one of their worst starts to a season. Advancing into the group stage of the UEFA Cup after eliminating FK Bodø/Glimt has been the sole highlight for the Istanbul side who, at the time of writing, lie 14th, 16 points behind leaders Fenerbahçe SK.

Their domestic problems were compounded on the first weekend of October when full-backs Ibrahim Toraman and Çagdas Atan were sent off in the defeat by Trabzonspor. Another defender, Ronaldo Guiaro, remains unavailable to coach Vicente Del Bosque because of injury. However, Besiktas do have two weeks extra to prepare for their opener against Athletic, as they do not play on Matchday 1, starting their campaign instead on 4 November.

* ATHLETIC CLUB BILBAO

A recent 2-1 win against Real Madrid CF plus the international call-ups of Francisco Yeste and Asier Del Horno have boosted an Athletic side who have endured a difficult start to the season.

The victory versus Madrid was their only Primera División triumph of the season so far, and after losing 3-1 to Getafe CF on 3 October, the Basque side were left in 15th place in the table. The defence has been the problem, with eleven goals leaked in six matches.

Further forward, however, Del Horno, Yeste, Santiago Ezquerro and Carlos Gurpegui have been in sparkling form. Between them they scored the goals that took Athletic past first-round opponents Trabzonspor 4-3 on aggregate - a tie in which Valverde's side had trailed 3-0 in the first leg in Turkey with 17 minutes to go before striking twice and winning 2-0 at home.

On the injury front, Ezquerro faces two to three weeks out with a thigh problem and strikers Ismael Urzaiz and Javi González await tests after suffering similar injuries in training - both twisted their knees although neither case is thought to be serious.

* FC STEAUA BUCURESTI

Three days after reaching the UEFA Cup group stage, FC Steaua Bucuresti suffered their first home defeat in the Romanian first division since November 2002.

CS Politehnica Iasi were bottom before the 3 October fixture, but their shock 1-0 victory was their first of the season and left Steaua in third place, six points adrift of leaders FC National Bucuresti. In the UEFA Cup, Steauau have come through two close ties, a 4-2 win at Serbo-Montenegrin side FK Zeleznik in the second qualifying round allowed them to survive a 2-1 loss in Bucharest in the return, while PFC CSKA Sofia were then beaten 4-3 on aggregate - but only after two late goals from the Bulgarians in their home second leg narrowed what was previously a comfortable advantage.

On the player front, Mirel Radoi has undergone knee surgery after ligament damage, but is expected to return swiftly to training. Walter Zenga's key men so far have been in-form midfield players Sorin Paraschiv and Nicolae Dica.

* R. STANDARD DE LIÈGE

Maybe the opens are good for R. Standard de Liège, having reached this stage with a dramatic away goals aggregate victory against VfL Bochum 1848, substitute Jorge Wiston making the score 1-1 in Germany two minutes into added time, following a goalless home draw.

Standard's Belgian first division form has also been on the up, with a recent winning streak of three games lifting them to fifth place, six points behind unbeaten leaders Club Brugge KV. Dominique D'Onofrio's side have overcome KSC Lokeren OV, RAA Louviéroise and R. Excelsior Mouscron to give themselves hope of matching last season's third-placed finish.

However, there has been a set-back with the injury of their high-profile summer signing from European champions FC Porto, Sérgio Conceição. The midfield player hurt his right knee in training on 1 October and underwent meniscus surgery the next day, ruling him out for a month - meaning his will miss Standard's opening group fixture on 21 October in Bucharest.

 
Last updated: 08/10/04 18.03CET

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