Tough task for Hamburg on return to top-flight

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The Independent Online

Hamburg SV return to European football's premier stage tonight after a 16-year absence, opening their Champions' League campaign against Juventus who they beat to win the European Cup in 1983.

Hamburg SV return to European football's premier stage tonight after a 16-year absence, opening their Champions' League campaign against Juventus who they beat to win the European Cup in 1983.

The Hamburg coach Frank Pagelsdorf, who has revived Germany's sleeping giants in the past three years, warned that their Italian opponents would be "tough nuts to crack" - as will the other clubs in the group, Spain's Deportivo La Coruna and Greece's Panathanaikos.

"It's a good omen," Pagelsdorf said of being drawn against the Turin club who Hamburg beat for the greatest triumph in their history.

"They're impressive because they can switch every player," he said. "One international sits out and another comes in."

Pagelsdorf was quick to play down expectations for Hamburg in a tournament that has featured a German club at the semi-final stage in all but one of the past six seasons.

"It is of maximum importance that we develop further and we want to use the group games to this end," Pagelsdorf said. "They are all tough nuts."

Hamburg will have to contain the Juventus playmaker Zinedine Zidane without their new record signing, the Czech international defender Milan Fukal. He is ineligible for the entire group phase after playing for Sparta Prague in the qualifying rounds.

But Pagelsdorf is likely to maintain a three-man attacking line that impressed in a 4-0 weekend demolition of VfL Bochum.

The Bosnian midfielder Sergej Barbarez should keep his new role as Hamburg's main striker in place of Tony Yeboah who is in the middle of a trial on tax evasion charges.

The Juventus coach Carlo Ancelotti has striker Filippo Inzaghi and goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar available again after injury.

Defender Paolo Montero starts a three-match suspension and will be replaced by Igor Tudor. The Italian international Gianluca Zambrotta is on Olympic duty so Uruguay's Fabian O'Neill should replace him on the right flank.

The France international striker David Trezeguet is expected to start on the bench with Yugoslav target man Darko Kovacevic.

The Bayer Leverkusen striker Ulf Kirsten said yesterday his club had to start spending the cash earned by selling Brazilian midfielder Emerson or risk being the richest club in the Second Division.

Leverkusen, who made 36 million marks (£11.6m) from Emerson's move to AS Roma, have been runners-up in the First Division for three of the past four seasons.

But unconvincing early performances this year have raised question marks about their ability to push for top honours again. They were weakened further this summer by losing out of contract Germany international midfielder Stefan Beinlich to Hertha Berlin and fevered transfer speculation now surrounds Jens Nowotny, the national team's defensive lynchpin.

"It can't just be about cash or you end up being relegated and becoming the richest club in the Second Division," the former Germany international Kirsten told the newspaper Bild.

The Leverkusen manager Rainer Calmund said there was no question of Nowotny being sold to Arsenal.

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