The early pacesetters in Group G, VfB Stuttgart and SL Benfica, meet on Thursday night in a match that Stuttgart coach Matthias Sammer considers "a real challenge" for his team, after both sides collected opening-night wins.
While Stuttgart beat KSK Beveren 5-1 in Belgium, Benfica won 4-2 at home to SC Heerenveen and Sammer warned: "Benfica are a strong attacking team. We've watched them a lot and the game will be a real challenge. However, we are hopeful of getting a positive result."
They will have to do so without Benfica old boy Fernando Meira and Boris Živkovic, neither of whom is ready despite returning to training this week. Meira, who has had a cruciate ligament injury, said: "
Benfica are strong in attack but I've seen some weaknesses in their defence."
Benfica without trio
Also missing for the Bundesliga team, who have lost their last three league outings, are Marco Streller and Hakan Yakin, while Imre Szabics and Horst Heldt are doubtful. However, Silvio Meissner and Heiko Gerber should be fit. Benfica have notable absentees in Slovenian playmaker Zlatko Zahovic and Portuguese internationals Miguel and Petit.
Dinamo's first match
In the other match, NK Dinamo Zagreb welcome Beveren. The Croatian side warmed up for their group-stage bow by securing their biggest win of the season, 3-0 against NK Pula 1856. Coach Nenad Gracan is deprived of forward Veldin Karic, while midfielder Jasmin Agic is struggling with a thigh problem. Gracan said of Beveren: "They have their weaknesses which we will try to exploit."
Beveren coach Herman Helleputte, meanwhile, has to decide whether to retain the 3-5-2 system that proved successful in their last two league matches or revert to a 4-4-2. However, he must manage without defender Abdoulaye Diawara, sidelined for three months after breaking an ankle.
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