Football: Batistuta's delight at prospect of return to Nou Camp

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The Independent Online
GABRIEL BATISTUTA faces one of the men who could claim to rival the Argentinian as the best player in the world when Fiorentina resume their Champions' League campaign at the Nou Camp tonight.

Barcelona's Rivaldo, who scored twice against Manchester United last season, has been on target in Spain with three Primera Liga goals this term and a hat-trick for Brazil in their recent 4-2 friendly triumph over Argentina.

"Batigol" has been in his usual rampant form, too, putting three past Verona in Fiorentina's 4-1 weekend win, following their scoreless draw with Arsenal. The 30-year-old now has 178 goals in 289 appearances with the Viola, leaving him just three goals shy of Kurt Hamrin's club record.

Now he is relishing the return to Barcelona, where he scored a stunning equaliser two years ago in the semi-finals of the European Cup-Winners' Cup. "The Nou Camp is a special stadium for me," Batistuta said. "I scored an unforgettable goal that night and I'm desperate to return."

If Batistuta and Fiorentina do triumph, it will add a festive mood to next week's celebrations in Florence, when he unveils a statue commemorating his career in an official ceremony. The Nou Camp fixture also pits the former Real Madrid favourite Predrag Mijatovic against his former rivals, who were surprising 2-1 losers to Alaves on Sunday.

In Group D, Osvaldo Ardiles' Croatia Zagreb, who left Old Trafford with a goalless draw last week, take on Marseilles.

The French side's win over Sturm Graz last week was only their second so far this season and their coach, Rolland Courbis, admitted: "We hope to improve. Even though we beat a good Austrian team, everything is not perfect at the moment."

In Group A, Lazio take on Dynamo Kiev - whose current line-up is barely recognisable from that which reached the semi- finals last season. The Italian club's Chilean striker, Marcelo Salas, who was left out of last week's 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen, is expected to play.

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