Team-by-team guide

September 12, 2003
By Nick Bidwell
(Archive)

Group B: Arsenal | Dynamo Kiev | Internazionale | Lokomotiv Moscow

Group A | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H


Arsenal

Star Turn: Thierry Henry

Arsenal's good fortune is that they arguably have the world's most potent striker in their ranks, someone who can win matches single-handedly.

Arsene Wenger was obviously inspired when he decided to convert him from a left-winger into a central striker. Henry can destroy defences with his extreme pace and ever since joining Arsenal in the summer of 1999, his finishing has improved year on year.

A flying start to Champions League campaign will no doubt enhance his chances of being voted European Footballer of the Year for 2003.

New Face: Jens Lehmann

Following a long and fruitless search for a keeper to step into the shoes of the Manchester City-bound David Seaman, Arsenal finally settled on the German international, paying Borussia Dortmund £1.5million for his services.

Brave, athletic and authoritative, Lehmann will be hoping that his time in England is considerably more succesful than his previous spell abroad. After quitting Schalke for Milan in 1998, he failed to settle and was back in Germany with Dortmund within six months.

The hero of Schalke's shoot-out victory over Internazionale in the Final of the 1997 UEFA Cup, his quick temper is his Achilles heel. He was sent-off twice in the Bundesliga last season.

One to Watch: Philippe Senderos

Arsenal definitely pulled off a transfer coup in signing the teenage Swiss central defender this summer. Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus were just some of the big-name clubs hoping to lure him from Servette Geneva. But fortunately for all at Highbury, Arsene Wenger proved the most persuasive.

Philippe Senderos (TonyMarshall/Empics)

The Geneva-born son of a Spanish father and Yugoslav mother, Senderos is a genuine prodigy. He was only 16 when he made his Servette first-team debut and was soon catching the eye with his power in the air, tenacious marking, anticipation and composure.

Very much an old head on young shoulders, he skippered Switzerland's Under-17 side to the European title last year.

Tactics:

If a watertight rearguad was the foundation of Arsenal's success of the late 80s and early 90s under boss George Graham, the watchword for current manager Arsene Wenger is attacking enterprise, with the team built around the pace and mobility in the attacking-third of Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord, Robert Pires and Freddy Ljungberg.

Normally set up for 4-4-2, Arsenal can unlock any defence with their slick, short passing game and are at their best when playing a high-tempo game. Wenger needs new keeper Jens Lehman to settle in quickly and though doubts have been raised about the ability of 37-year-old Martin Keown to stay the pace in central defence, the presence in front of the back-four of the outstanding Patrick Vieira means he is not exposed too often.

Verdict: Potential semi-finalists and could go further still.


  • Dynamo Kiev
  • Star Turn: Maxim Shatskikh

    Some four years ago many in the Ukraine were perplexed when legendary Kiev coach Valerii Lobanovskyi chose the unknown Uzbek striker with Russian Second Division side Baltika Kaliningrad to replace the Milan-bound Andriy Shevchenko.

    But if doubters thought Lobanovskyi had lost the plot, they were soon to revise their opinions. Lightning quick, a mazy dribbler, physically durable and with an eye for goal, Shatskikh proved a revelation.

    He has a shoot-on-sight on policy and struck home a memorable long-range effort in Kiev's 2-0 win over Newcastle in last term's Champions League.

    New Face: Roberto Nanni

    After being turned down by a clutch of would-be reinforcements, Kiev's luck finally changed for the better when they signed the promising young Argentine striker from Buenos Aires club Velez Sarsfield on the eve of the transfer deadline.

    Dubbed "Pistolero", the 22-year-old had been linked with several European clubs this summer, including Marseille, Perugia, Bologna, Roma, Galatasaray and Olympiakos. But it was Kiev who hit the jackpot, paying a bargain £2million for him.

    A prolific scorer in the Argentine top flight last season, the 22-year-old from Italian immigrant stock may not always be pretty to watch but he is extremely effective. Feisty and muscular, he holds the ball up well and is especially dangerous in the air.

    One to Watch: Florin Cernat

    It is not by chance that the young Romanian playmaker is known as "Diamond". A player of perfect balance, intelligent movement and imagination, he is a brilliant young prospect, one of the premier players in Eastern Europe today.

    Signed from Dinamo Bucharest in December 2000 for £2million, he has since made spectacular progress and it is no wonder that he is often mentioned in the same breath as the great Gheorghe Hagi, another left-footed midfielder from Romania.

    Won his first full cap for Romania against the Ukraine in March 2002 and aged only 23 he should have a long international career ahead of him.

    Tactics:

    Coach Olexiy Mikhailichenko, the former Kiev and Glasgow Rangers midfielder, is likely to switch between a 4-5-1 and a 4-4-2 according to the circumstances. But whatever the formation, Mikhailichenko will stay loyal to the guiding principles of former boss Valerii Lobanovskyi, who put the emphasis on players of great versatility, neat attacking triangles and tactical discipline.

    Kiev are at their most dangerous when their midfield is working to maximum efficiency. The onus will be on the all-overseas engine room quartet of the Belarus pair Valentin Bialkevich and Aleksandr Khatskevich, Romania's Florin Cernat and the Croat Jerko Leko to deliver.

    Verdict: Competitive at home, much less so on their travels. It would be a major surprise if they progressed beyond the first phase.


  • Internazionale
  • Star Turn: Christian Vieri

    Although there can be no doubt about his status as a world-class striker, the Australian-raised Italian international definitely has a point to prove in the Champions League after flattering to deceive in the same competition last term.

    Christian Vieri (Photography/GettyImages)

    For Italy, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Lazio and Inter, who bought him for a cool £31million in 1999, Vieri has proved himself a goalscoring phenomenon. Yet the flip side is that he does tend to be somewhat injury-prone, missing substantial chunks of each campaign.

    Motivation may be a problem this term. He was highly critical of the Inter management for selling strike-partner Hernan Crespo to Chelsea and said he wanted to leave.

    New Face: Andy Van der Meyde

    A lack of penetration and precise delivery from the flanks has long been a problem at Inter and in a bid to remedy the situation, Inter president Massimo Moratti went shopping in Amsterdam this summer, paying Ajax £4million for Van der Meyde.

    Able to play on either flank, the 24-year-old Dutch international is yet another product of Ajax's much-celebrated youth scheme and came to the fore in the 2001-02 season when he helped the Amsterdammers claim a League and Cup double.

    A fan of the Premiership, he has speed, technical ability, crosses well and loves to cut in for a shot on goal. But according to his former Ajax boss Ronald Koeman, he tends to be too individualistic at times.

    One to Watch: Obafemi Martins

    The teenage Nigerian teenager frontrunner burst onto the Inter scene last season, showing up well in four Serie A games and scoring two fine goals in the Champions League, the second coming in Inter's semi-final loss to Milan on the away goals rule.

    Short of stature, he makes for a lack of inches with his explosive speed and power, causing all manner of problems with his lung-busting runs from deep.

    His talent and enthusiasm have already made him a big crowd favourite and in the wake of the departure to Chelsea of Hernan Crespo, he is widely-tipped to partner Vieri on a regular basis. Massimo Moratti calls him "my little Owen".

    Tactics:

    Inter's Argentine coach Hector Cuper is very much a conservative tactician, preaching defensive rigour and rapid counter-attacks. Not the most popular figure at the San Siro, his critics claim his team lacks midfield creativity and relies too much on the brilliance of Christian Vieri up front.

    Throughout his coaching career Cuper has stuck religiously by a 4-4-2 system and he will not be changing now. To freshen up the flanks, Inter brought in a host of wide-men in the close season: Andy Van der Meyde (Ajax), Killy Gonzalez (Valencia) and Luciano (Chievo).

    Verdict: A quarter-final spot is the best they can hope for.


  • Lokomotiv Moscow
  • Star Turn: Dmitri Loskov

    The Lokomotiv skipper and midfield general certainly has enjoyed a memorable 2002, scoring the winning goal in the Russian championship play-off against CSKA Moscow, producing a string of top class displays as his club reached the second phase of last season's Champions League and being voted his country's Player of the Year.

    With Lokomotiv for the past six years, the 29-year-old might not be the paciest of players but he compensates with his keen football brain, clever passing, energy and dead-ball ability. Not surprisingly he was linked with a move to the West this summer - a number of Premiership sides were rumoured to be interested - but to his club's relief, he chose to stay put.

    Hailing from the former Soviet republic of Tajikstan but now a Russian citizen, he made his full international debut back in May 2000.

    New Face: Dmitri Khokhlov

    Experienced Russian international attacking midfielder, who recently returned to the mother country after six seasons in western Europe with PSV Eindhoven and Real Sociedad.

    Although goalscoring is not his forte - he has only averaged four or five league goals a season in recent years - he has much to offer creatively thanks to his technical polish and strong running.

    Born in Moscow 27 years ago, he began his career in the capital with CSKA and Torpedo before emigrating to Holland to play for PSV.

    One to Watch: Marat Izmailov

    The rising star of Russian football, the young midfielder or attacker will be anxious to shine in the 2003-04 Champions League after missing last season's edition through injury.

    Equally at home in a playmaking role, on the left-side of midfield or in the front-line, the little 21-year-old's intricate dribbling and powerful shooting can pose problems for any defence and it is not surprising that a number of Italian sides are said to be on his trail.

    Burst onto the Russian scene in 2001, earning a call-up to the Russian national team only a few months after his first team debut for Lokomotiv.

    Tactics:

    Lokomotiv boss Yuri Syomin prefers to go with a disciplined 4-4-2 formation. In front of experienced keeper Sergei Ovchinnikov is a flat back-four featuring Russian international defenders Sergei Ignashevich and Gennadi Nizhegordov; South African left-back Jacob Lekgetho is excellent going forward; Vladimir Maminov does most of the midfield fetching and carrying.

    Most of Lokomotiv's attacking moves flow from creator-in chief Dmitri Loskov, Marat Izmailov supplies the attacking flair, while the Russian-Georgian striking partnership of Maksim Buznikin and Mikhail Ashvetia will be expected to provide the punch. New Brazilian signings, forward Leandro and attacking midfielder Jorje Wagner - who both arrived from Corinthians of Sao Paulo - could come into the equation too.

    Verdict: Will be competing with Kiev for third-place.