Football: Zidane anticipates fjord fiesta

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The Independent Online
Rosenborg Trondheim, who qualified for tonight's quarter-final of the European Cup at the expense of Milan, may yet prove a bogey team for Italian clubs but the Norwegian part-timers hold no fears for the Juventus midfielder Zinedine Zidane.

"Rosenborg shouldn't be too big a problem," the Frenchman said on the eve of the first leg. "With all due respect, if we play to our best then we'll prove the better side and go through. At the moment, I think Juventus are the best team in Italy... and perhaps also in Europe."

Few observers would argue with such confidence. The Serie A leaders approach the match in Trondheim in buoyant mood, seven points clear of domestic rivals Internazionale and Parma.

Zidane, who missed Juve's 2-0 league win over Vicenza on Saturday, returns to the side along with compatriot Didier Deschamps to replace Alessio Tacchinardi and Attilio Lombardo. The availability of the French midfielders partly compensates Juventus for the injury-enforced absence of the first- choice strikers, Alessandro Del Piero and Alen Boksic. Michele Padovano and Christian Vieri play in their stead.

Juventus are bolstered at the back by the return of their first-choice goalkeeper, Angelo Peruzzi, who missed the club's last two league games.

Rosenborg prepared for the tie in Cyprus, where they won two matches and drew one. They have no injury or suspension problems but several players - Jon Olav Hjelde, Roar Strand, Bent Skammelsrud, Harald Brattbakk, Bjorn Otto Bragstad and Trond Egil Soltvedt - have all received yellow cards.

Meanwhile, the Borussia Dortmund coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, has warned the club's fans and players against underestimating Auxerre, the German champions' opponents in another of tonight's European Cup quarter-finals.

Hitzfeld expressed surprise yesterday that the first-leg match was not yet a sell-out. "The difficulty of our task is being totally underestimated in Dortmund," Hitzfeld said. "I can't understand the fans who are leaving us in the lurch now."

The coach rates the French champions highly, despite the fact they are having a poor season. Auxerre lie seventh in the league and were knocked out of the French Cup on Friday.

Dortmund will be without Matthias Sammer, ruled out with a calf injury. The libero, Europe's player of the year, sustained heavy bruising in Germany's friendly with Israel in Tel Aviv last week. He missed Dortmund's 4-1 Bundesliga win over 1860 Munich on Saturday and has been told to rest for 10 days.

Hitzfeld is also deprived of the captain, Michael Zorc, because of suspension, and Julio Cesar and Steffen Freund through injury.

Auxerre must do without the striker Steve Marlet and defender Franck Rabarivony, who are both sidelined with injuries. But the main concern of the coach, Guy Roux, is the form of midfielders, Moussa Saib and Sabri Lamouchi. "We've got a real playing problem," Roux said. "We need the playmakers to return to form."