Real Sociedad de Fútbol are in confident mood ahead of their competition debut at home to Olympiacos CFP.
Last year's surprise runners-up in the Primera División will have their first-choice strike partnership of Nihat Kahveci and Darko Kovacevic available following Nihat's recovery from a knee injury that sidelined him for the Basque side's opening three league games.
Nihat's 23 goals were one of the reasons for Real's success last season, although it is unclear whether he will start the match on the pitch or on the bench. If he is a substitute, then either Óscar de Paula - Real's match-winner against Real Racing Club Santander on Saturday - or the Korean Chun-Soo Lee will partner Kovacevic.
Spanish international midfield player Xabi Alonso may also return after being rested at the weekend, while Igor Gabilondo is likely to continue on the left of midfield. Real participated twice in the European Cup in its old format, losing in the first round to PFC CSKA Sofia in 1981/82 before progressing to the semi-finals the following year, when they lost to eventual winners Hamburger SV.
Despite their lack of experience at this level, coach Raynald Denoueix is confident Real can make an impact in Group D, with Galatasaray SK and last season's beaten finalists Juventus FC the other sides in the section. "
Playing in the Champions League means playing at a higher level and we will have to concentrate a lot harder," Denoueix said. "Playing in the Primera División you have five seconds to think, but in the Champions League you hardly have three."
"The win in Santander was a good psychological boost for us and we've been waiting for this for a long time," he continued. "The players know that and they're all very motivated. Olympiacos are the most beatable team in the group, but there are no easy teams."
The Greek side arrived in Spain with goalkeeper Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos, defenders Paraskevas Antzas – who picked up a groin strain during Saturday's surprise 1-0 league defeat by Proodeftiki FC - and Christos Patsatzoglou all out through injury along with striker Marcin Kuzba, which could force former French international Christian Karembeu back into defence.
Good start needed
"I am prepared to play wherever I am asked and to do it well," said Karembeu, who won the competition with Real Madrid CF. "We know it is going to be a very hard game, like every game in this competition, and it is very important to get a good start. The last time I was here with Madrid we drew 0-0 and a draw would be a good result for us."
'Chase the game'
However, striker Lampros Choutos is fit again after missing his side's last two matches, and coach Oleh Protasov expects his players to bounce back from their unexpected setback at Proodeftiki. "We need to put that defeat behind us," he said. "We need to be disciplined and tight in defence but we also need to chase the game up front in order to get a result."