Group E: Likely lads face Italian lesson

Juventus FC, FC Dynamo Kyiv and Newcastle United FC stand in the way of UEFA Cup holders Feyenoord.

Main ingredients 
Come September, though, and the Dutch side will turn their sights on the other teams drawn in Group E of the first group stage: Italian champions Juventus FC, and FC Dynamo Kyiv and Newcastle United FC, both of whom came through qualifying to reach the competition proper.

Past encounters
Bert van Marwijk's men beat Internazionale FC en route to UEFA Cup glory last term, but their past history with Juventus is less of an indicator of success. Feyenoord played the Bianconeri twice in the 1997/98 Champions League, with honours even as the latter won 5-1 at home then lost 2-0 in Rotterdam.

'Evenly matched'
Juventus went on to beat another Group E opponent, Dynamo, in the quarter-finals that year, crushing the Ukrainians 4-1 in Kiev. A repeat of that scoreline is unlikely according to the Juventus vice-president Roberto Bettega. "We are in a very interesting group. It seems very evenly matched and all the teams can beat each other," he said.

Two to watch
However, Bettega qualified that statement by underlining the claims of Feyenoord and Newcastle. "Feyenoord will be a tough challenge for us as they will be better prepared physically since they are playing in the Super Cup," he said, before adding: "The Juventus-Newcastle fixture will be the main match."

A head start
The game will be the English team's first acquaintance of the Turin super power. But as with Dynamo and Feyenoord, whose leagues kicked off in July and August respectively, they at least have a head start on the Italians in terms of match fitness given Serie A's projected late start in mid-September.

Take nothing for granted
Meanwhile, Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson knows all about Feyenoord, having coached at PSV Eindhoven for several seasons, and the north-easterners also have the edge on Dynamo. In the 1997/98 Champions League campaign, they added a 2-0 win at St James' Park to a 2-2 draw in Kiev. Not that chairman Freddie Shepherd is taking anything for granted.

'No easy games'
"There isn't an easy game in the Champions League," he said. "We have already played Kiev, and make no mistake that all the teams in our group are of an extremely high standard."