FK Partizan's UEFA Champions League induction will be complete when they visit Real Madrid CF.
By Andy Hall in Madrid
If FK Partizan had any doubts about what UEFA Champions League football is all about, they will know for sure on Wednesday when they visit a Real Madrid CF team holding a perfect record in Group F.
To make things harder for the Serbo-Montenegrin champions, Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz has the luxury of a full squad while Partizan are depleted. Queiroz, indeed, intends to field his first-choice lineup as his side seek to add to their total of six points and seven goals from their two games.
All the players are in fine shape and so there is no reason to rest anyone," said Queiroz. "Only [David] Beckham has a small problem after receiving a blow to his right leg but I am sure that he will be able to start the match." That team will face a Partizan side with one point so far, having held FC Porto but lost at Olympique de Marseille - two sides beaten by Madrid - but Queiroz is still wary.
"In the first game, Partizan looked nervous and lacking initiative but in the second game they gave the opposite impression and the 3-0 scoreline did not reflect their performance," the Madrid coach said. "They have looked like a different team each time they play and that is why we must give them the attention and respect that they deserve."
Queiroz, who was appointed as Madrid coach in the summer, will also be aware that his new club won on the first two Matchdays last season only to then embark on a run of six Champions League games without victory. Their achilles heel remains their defence, but with Francisco Pavón back from injury they kept a clean sheet in beating RC Celta de Vigo 2-0 at the weekend, and the returning centre-back could partner Raúl Bravo, allowing Iván Helguera to return to midfield alongside Beckham.
Flu floors Partizan
Such luxuries are not open to Partizan coach Lothar Matthäus, who has seen a flu bug account for Branko Savic, Branimir Bajic and Taribo West. Not only that, but defender Milivoje Cirkovic has sustained muscular problems and joins Ivica Kralj, Vladimir Ivic and Milovan Milovic on the injury list. Midfield player Albert Nadj has overcome a knee sprain to play but Matthäus knows that there are few tougher tasks in European football.
'Thinking of victory'
"I have been quite nervous all week, because we have some players quite ill with flu," he said. "We will be going into the game thinking of victory, but we know it is going to be very difficult.
Real Madrid have the best players in the world and they can win with one player or collectively, and they deserve to be where they are."
However, Matthäus will not be adopting negative tactics. "We are not going to play defensively; our players know what they need to do tomorrow," he said on Tuesday. Perhaps he will not want to look too closely at Partizan's record in Spain - three defeats without scoring a goal, the first a 4-0 defeat by Madrid in the first European Champions Clubs' Cup in December 1955.