The spectre of hooliganism hangs over Feyenoord's attempt to capture the one European trophy to elude them. The Dutch Cup holders, who won the Champions' Cup in 1970 and the Uefa Cup in 1974, meet Rapid Vienna in the first leg of the European Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final tonight.
Feyenoord supporters have already been barred from travelling to Vienna for the second leg in two weeks' time after trouble with Borussia Monchengladbach fans in last month's quarter-final.
The Feyenoord chairman, Jorien van den Herik, who has asked Uefa, football's European governing body, to lift the ban, warned: "A single firecracker could cause huge damage for this club."
Rapid, who are visiting Rotterdam for the first time since losing to Everton 3-1 there in the 1985 Cup-Winners' Cup final, have proved to be the dark horses of the competition.
They scored a comprehensive 4-0 aggregate victory over Dynamo Moscow in the quarter-final and the Feyenoord coach, Arie Haan, said: "Rapid are hard in duels, strong in the air and good in combinations, a typical example of the Austrian school. Austrians are more clever and frivolous than Germans and you see that in their play."
Haan has almost a full-strength squad available, with only the defender Henk Fraser ruled out. Rapid will be looking to the former Cologne striker, Carsten Jancker, who scored twice against Dynamo, to clinch a crucial away goal. Prvoslav Jovanovic returns in midfield after missing the match in Moscow through suspension.
However, the Rapid coach, Ernst Dokupil, was being circumspect as he arrived with his squad in Rotterdam.
"Tension is running high," he said. "But I am a realist. And my realism tells me that we have advanced into realms where we do not belong, at least not yet."
In the other European Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final, Paris St-Germain's influential Brazilian midfielder, Rai, has withdrawn from the first leg against Deportivo La Coruna, which may prove crucial to the French club's chances of success against the Spanish side. A thigh injury which could also keep Rai out of the second leg in two weeks' time.
By contrast, Deportivo's Brazilian striker, Bebeto, has struck a rich vein of form. He scored a crucial goal in the quarter-final victory over the holders, Real Zaragoza, and is in no doubt that Deportivo, playing in their first European semi-final, can keep the trophy in Spain.
"We're going to win the Cup," said Bebeto, who has now settled his differences with the Deportivo coach, John Toshack, after being dropped earlier in the season.
Toshack's hopes of fielding a full-strength side have been thwarted by the absence through injury of the midfielder Mauro Silva and the defender Nando, but he is otherwise able to field his strongest line-up.
For Paris Saint-Germain, the striker Patrice Loko is out of form and unlikely to start the match while Youri Djorkaeff is slowly recovering from an injury which has kept him out of action for more than a month, while the defenders Jose Cobos and Stephane Mahe are also doubtful.
The problems are mounting for the coach, Luis Fernandez who must also be concerned about his team's slump in league form.
"We won't know who is fit to play until the last minute. In my mind, except Rai, everybody is," Fernandez said. "Deportivo knocked out the title holders in the previous round, have twice finished runner-up in their championship in the last two seasons and have two World Cup winners [Bebeto and Mauro Silva]," he said.
"I still say we have to score at La Coruna, and especially not back away. The match in Spain is super-important. We have to give everything."
A 3-2 home defeat by Metz at the weekend, their fifth loss in eight games, meant that PSG surrendered the leadership to Auxerre.
However, the French side are not unduly concerned by their poor league form. "Losing against Metz has got nothing to do with the Cup-Winners' Cup," the defender Alain Roche said. "Last year we were 15 points behind Nantes, but we still beat Barcelona."
Fernandez added: "A 2-1 loss in La Coruna would be fine, because I'm confident the second leg will be very hot, especially as all our injured players will be back by then."
With Bordeaux expected to reach the Uefa Cup final after their 1-0 win at Slavia Prague on Tuesday night, and Nantes engaged in the latter stages of Champions' Cup, PSG will be determined to keep the Tricolore flying in European competition.Reuse content