By Kadira Malkoc & Matt Gatward
Sporting Clube de Portugal and FK Partizan meet tomorrow night in Lisbon in a UEFA Cup first-round tie that will bring a little slice of history back to life.
The teams played each other in the first ever European Champion Clubs' Cup match in September 1955, a game that ended 3-3 in Lisbon. The second leg in Belgrade produced even more goals as Partizan triumphed 5-2 on the night and 8-5 on aggregate.
Adversity to overcome
Partizan won the sides' second meeting too, in the 1961/62 European Cup, but while a tie to equal the excitement of that inaugural encounter would be welcome, both Partizan and Sporting have an amount of adversity to overcome first.
Behind closed doors
Partizan were well beaten by FC Bayern München in the UEFA Champions League qualifying round and will look to the UEFA Cup to restore lost pride. However, the Yugoslavian champions travel to Portugal without defender Milivoje Cirkovic, midfield player Vladimir Ivic and forward Danko Lazovic who are injured. Further impeding them is the fact they must play the second leg behind closed doors following crowd trouble at the Bayern match.
'We can cope'
"We are playing the best team in Portugul, but I think our chances are 50-50," Ljubisa Tumbakovic, the Partizan coach, said. "We have to get a good result away from home because we are at a disadvantage for the home leg as the stadium will be empty. We will face enormous pressure tomorrow, but I think we can cope."
Things are not exactly running to plan for Sporting either. Their coach, Laszlo Bölöni, has a touchline ban for tomorrow's game after insulting the referee in the Champions League qualifying round defeat by Internazionale FC.
The Portuguese champions also lost heavily in their last league match, 4-0 at Paços de Ferreira, a defeat Bölöni tried to play down. "We are still not over the bad result of the weekend but we are not going to overplay the situation," he said.
Key players missing
Sporting have personnel problems, with last season's Golden Shoe winner, Mario Jardel, suspended by the club after failing to attend a medical for a third time, and João Pinto serving a ban following his clash with a referee in the FIFA World Cup. Sá Pinto, another forward, has not played this term due to injury, while the Chilean defender Pablo Andrés Contreras is also sidelined and is likely to be replaced by César Prates.
'Try out younger players'
Bölöni said: "I am still looking at the starting eleven. The fact that two key forwards, João Pinto and Mario Jardel, are not playing gives me a headache. I am lucky I have a strong squad, though, and will try out some younger players."
'Most interesting game'
Sporting's director of football, José Manuel Torcato, believes the match will stir the emotions. "I think it is probably the most interesting and most difficult game in the first round," he said. If it can live up to the sides' first meeting in 1955 there will be few complaints.
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