UEFA Cup: Goals likely as Palermo host Newcastle

November 1, 2006

LONDON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Goals could be in plentiful supply when Serie A high-flyers Palermo host English Premier League strugglers Newcastle United in the UEFA Cup on Thursday.

The goal-happy but defensively frail Sicilians boast Serie A's most productive attack and Newcastle, whose defensive shortcomings have long been their bugbear, could be in for a torrid evening at the Renzo Barbera.

The teams began their Group H campaigns with victories, Palermo coming from behind to win 2-1 at Eintracht Frankfurt while Newcastle overcame Fenerbahce 1-0.

Palermo have emerged as surprise frontrunners domestically, a 3-2 win at Fiorentina on Sunday putting them level at the top with Inter Milan.

Despite losing World Cup defender Fabio Grosso to Inter, the capture of Australia midfielder Mark Bresciano and former Parma team mate Fabio Simplicio, along with in-form Brazilian striker Amauri, have improved a side benefiting from the return of coach Francesco Guidolin.

Newcastle travel with a patched up side.

Former Inter striker Obafemi Martins misses out on a return to Italy. The Nigeria forward, who joined Newcastle in the close season, is out for two weeks with a hamstring injury.

'The squad is certainly being tested to its limits,' said manager Glenn Roeder. 'I don't like the description 'bare bones' but we are short of numbers.'

Former European champions Ajax Amsterdam host Austria Vienna in their opening Group F game.

The Dutch side have unhappy memories from the last time the sides met.

Ajax were hit with a one-year European ban after Austria Vienna goalkeeper Franz Wohlfahrt was struck by an iron bar thrown from the stands during their 1989-90 UEFA Cup tie.

Ajax forward Ryan Babel (knee), goalkeeper Dennis Gentenaar (back) and midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli (thigh) are injured.

No team boast a better record this season than Romania's Dinamo Bucharest, who have won 13 out of 13 league games and are also unbeaten in UEFA Cup and domestic cup action.

Dinamo start their Group B campaign at home to Turkey's Besiktas.

Coach Mircea Rednic said the exploits of city rivals Steaua and Rapid in the competition last season, Steaua reached the last four after defeating Rapid in the quarter-finals, had galvanised Dinamo.

'Steaua and Rapid forced us to work hard and try to emulate their performance,' Rednic said.

'Leading the Romanian table means nothing unless we do well in European competition. It's our turn to shine in Europe.'

In the other Group B tie Tottenham Hotspur, who kicked off with a 2-0 win at Besiktas, host Belgium's Club Bruges.

Wisla Krakow are likely to be without defender Nikola Mijailovic for their visit to French side AS Nancy in Group E.

Mijailovic was banned for five games pending an appeal for racially abusing Blackburn Rovers striker Benni McCarthy during their tie in Poland.

Blackburn, who overcame Wisla 2-1 two weeks ago, host Basel at Ewood Park but will be without striker Jason Roberts who broke a metatarsal in his right foot at the weekend and is sidelined for three to four months.