Print and go back ESPNsoccernet: UEFA Champions League Soccernet Print

Thursday, September 9, 2004
ESPNsoccernet: September 13, 3:41 PM UK
UEFA Champions League Group G

Nick Bidwell and Kevin Palmer

Group G: Valencia | Inter | Anderlecht | Werder Bremen
Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F | Group H

Valencia

  • Spanish Champions
  • Champions League pedigree: Runners-up 2000 & 2001

    Valencia's Ruben Baraja.

    The Star Man - Ruben Baraja

    After speculation linking him with a move to Rafa Benitez's Spanish revolution at Liverpool, it will have been a relief to all Valencia fans to see Baraja in a Valencia start for the start of the La Liga season.

    His Champions League form has been impressive in recent seasons and while he is not always given the credit he deserves, Baraja is a midfielder with few peers in the European game. Strong in the tackle, he is also a regular goal scorer and his qualities from set-plays need to be watched by Valencia's Champions League opponents.

    The Weak Link - Too much tinkering

    When you hire Claudio Ranieri as head coach, there is always likely to be a hint of the maverick about your team selection from week to week and this may not be to Valencia's benefit.

    While he had an embarrassment of riches at his disposal during his final year as Chelsea boss, Ranieri often came up with starting line-ups and substitutions that baffled the best of observers. The low point in his career came as his woeful tinkering during the Champions League semi-final against Monaco last April cost Chelsea a place in the Final.

    Time will tell whether he has learned from his mistakes.

    The New Faces - The Italian Job

    Ranieri has turned to Italy as he bid to put his stamp on the Valencia team Rafa Benitez built with such success and he has been successful capturing a trio of quality performers from his homeland.

    In Marco Di Vaio, Valencia have snapped up a attacking star that impressed during his two year stint at Juventus and should have the class to light up the Spanish League. The same could be said of Bernardo Corradi, signed from Lazio to further bolster Ranieri's striking options.

    Stefano Fiore completes the trio of Italian new boys as the Mestalla and his attacking midfield qualities should stand Valencia in good stead.

    The Coach - Claudio Ranieri

    The affable Italian boss seems to have times his return to the Mestalla Stadium perfectly.

    With his personal bank balance substantially boosted by a bumper pay-off from Chelsea, Ranieri has been presented with the sort of freedom in the transfer market that the departed Rafael Benitez craved. Boardroom wrangles are a thing of the past and there is additional funds available thanks to a new backer.

    Ranieri's stock rose considerably as he worked under intolerable pressure at Stamford Bridge last season, he was a popular choice to take over the vacant coaching position with the Spanish champions and he has a chance to add silverware to his CV with the fine squad he has inherited.

    A fan of the 4-4-2 formation, he became known as 'The Tinkerman' at Chelsea, so the Valencia fans can expect a new starting eleven for each Champions League game.

    Verdict: The last eight may the be their lot this time.

    Inter Milan

  • Fourth in Serie A
  • Champions League pedigree: Winners 1964, 1965

    Inter Milan'sChristian Vieri.

    The Star Man - Christian Vieri

    After being in dispute with Inter for much of last season, it is remarkable that the leading Italian marksman of the last decade is still at the San Siro for the start of the new season.

    That he is must be a bonus for new coach Roberto Mancini and if he can get Vieri's career back on track after a difficult 12 months, his goals will be a key to their success or failure in the Champions League.

    A prolific marksman, Vieri is famed for his power in the air, so it was baffling to witness his woeful performances, particularly with a host of headed chances, during Italy's Euro 2004 failure.

    The Weak Link - The missing centre-back

    Inter have been rocked by the departure of Fabio Cannavaro to Juventus and the fact that they failed to sign a replacement for Italy's centre-half suggests they have a gaping hole in their backline.

    Roberto Mancini's attempts to snap up Cesar from Lazio fell through at the last and Inter's Giuseppe Favalli has gone on record to express his amazement at the turn of events.

    Even coach Mancini has been forced to admit they are short in the defensive positions and after Arsenal exposed them in the Champions League last season by winning 5-1 at the San Siro, they may be there for the taking again.

    The New Face - Edgar Davids

    The controversial Dutchman will add steel to an Inter midfield that will also feature the talents of Juan Sebastian Veron after his disappointing spell in England came to an end with a loan move from Chelsea.

    Veron and Davids have the ability to tighten up an Inter midfield that will have a big job to do in protecting the defensive line-up that may be put under strain following the departure of Fabio Cannavaro.

    The bespectacled Davids remains a fine performer and even though the sands of time are catching up with him, his reputation was enhanced during a stint at Barcelona in the second half of last season.

    The Coach - Roberto Mancini

    Being handed the keys to Massimo Moratti's open cheque book gives Mancini a decent chance to achieve the success he craves as a coach, but many have tried and failed in the hot seat he has opted to fill for this Champions League campaign.

    His sparkling playing career has been followed up by a decent start to his life as a coach with Lazio, but he looks like having a tough season as he aims to bring some much needed success to the Nerazzurri.

    As ever, Inter have embarked on a massive rebuilding programme during the summer and Mancini will need time to bed his team down. He usually employs a 4-4-2 formation.

    Verdict: They should make the last 16 and maybe the quarter-finals.

    Anderlecht

  • Belgian champions
  • Champions League Pedigree: Champions' Cup semi-finalists 1982 and 1986.

    Anderlecht's Walter Baseggio.

    The Star Man - Walter Baseggio

    Andrelecht captain and midfield organiser through whom all their most dangerous attacks flow. Fans of the Brussels club say that when Baseggio is in on form, Anderlecht are on form.

    Born in Belgium to Italian parents, he is the complete central midfielder, tough in the tackle, industrious and boasting left-footed passing ability to die for. Not for nothing was the 26-year-old voted Belgium's Player of the Year in 2001.

    A fixture in the Anderlecht side since the 1996-97 season, this self-confesed Napoli fan has often spoken about moving to Serie A. But despite being linked with Parma and Inter Milan in the past, his dream has yet to come true.

    The Weak Link - The Attack

    In normal circumstances, a forward line featuring the multiple talents of Ivory Coast marksman Aruna Dindane would pose a real threat. However, at the moment it is debateable whether the temperamental Dindane will be prepared to pull out all the stops for Anderlecht in Europe.

    Dindane was not best pleased that talks about a possible move to the Premiership, Spain or France came to nothing and blames Anderlecht for asking too much (10 million). A confidence player, who needs to be in upbeat mood to function at his best, he is now sulking, which has to be bad news for the Belgian champions.

    Without a fully committed Dindane, it may be asking too much for Anderlecht's other attackers, the Belgian international Mbo Mpenza and the Serb Nenad Jestovic to take up the slack.

    The New Face - Fabrice Ehret

    Former French Under 21 midfielder or full-back signed from Strasbourg. A player of no little pace and adventure, plus a remarkable left-foot, being particularly dangerous when volleying the ball.

    Born in Switzerland to French parents, his career has gone off the boil in the last couple of seasons due to injuries and a lack of consistency. But provided his attitude is right, he can make an impact at Anderlecht.

    Started his career at eastern French club Mulhouse, joining Strasbourg in 1998.

    The Coach - Hugo Broos

    The man tipped to be Belgium's next manager, he has enjoyed a wonderful coaching career, masterminding League titles for Club Brugge (1992 and 1996) and Anderlecht last season, as well as transforming unfashionable Excelsior Mouscron into one of the most competitive teams in the country during a four-year spell there (1998-2002).

    In his third season in charge at Anderlecht, he is renowned for his faith in a solid 4-4-2 formation and for his insistence on tactical discipline. He also likes to rotate his first team personnel from match to match.

    Played at cente-back for Belgium, Anderlecht and Club Brugge in the 1970s and 80s, notably winning a pair of European Cup-winners' Cups with Anderlecht in 1976 and 1978.

    Verdict: Did not make the knock-out stage last term and could fall short again.

    Werder Bremen

  • Bundesliga champions

  • Champions League Pedigree: Last-eight 1994

    Werder Bremen's Johan Micoud

    The Star Man - Johan Micoud

    The gifted French playmaker made an outstanding all-round contribution to his club's first Bundesliga title in more than a decade, scoring ten and creating eight more with his slide-rule passing. He usually shuns the German media but his class spoke volumes.

    Moved to Bremen on a free in August 2002 after two below-par years in Serie A with Parma. Started out as a young professional at Cannes, leaving in 1996 for Bordeaux, whom he skippered to the French championship three years later.

    Has something of the Cantona about him; the same upright, heads-up style, the same elegance and arrogance.

    The Weak Link - The Attack

    It goes without saying that Werder were far from happy to see their leading scorer, the Brazilian Ailton leave on a Bosman this summer for Schalke. He will be a hard act to follow after notching 28 League goals last term and topping the national scoring charts.

    Bremen have recruited the German international striker Miroslav Klose from Kaiserslautern to step into Ailton's boots and also have the Croat Ivan Klasnic, Nelson Valdez of Paraguay and Greece's Euro 2004 goalscoring hero Angelos Charisteas on their attacking roster. But none of the above possess Ailton's explosive pace and clinical finishing ability.

    There is a real danger too of Charisteas causing some unrest in the camp. He is not happy about being confined to the bench and has begun to make wantaway noises.

    The New Face - Miroslav Klose Nationalmannschaft striker bought for 3.3 million from Kaiserslautern. An all-action frontrunner with great competitive spirit and ability in the air.

    First made a name for himself with a clutch of goal-laden performances for Lautern in the 2000-01 season and soon found himself in the senior German squad, marking his debut with a late winning goal in a World Cup qualifier against Albania in March 2001.

    Scored five goals at the last World Cup but since then he has gone off the boil somewhat and he is no longer sure of an automatic place in the German front-line.

    The Coach - Thomas Schaaf

    Werder through and through, he has spent his entire career at the northern club, playing 262 Bundesliga games for them between 1978 and 1995, coaching the club's youth and amateur sides for six years and then replacing Felix Magath as head coach in May 1999.

    Up until quite recently, the view of many critics was that he too quiet and not charismatic enough to lead a squad of professionals. But with his side stylishly completing a League and Cup double last season, the detractors have been in retreat.

    A disciplined, reliable full-back, he helped Werder win the Bundesliga in 1988 and 1993 and was a substitute when they defeated Monaco in the 1992 European Cup-winners' Cup Final.

    Verdict: May cause the odd upset but still unlikely to make the last 16.

  • Email newsdesk@soccernet.com with your thoughts.



  • ESPNsoccernet: Help | Media Kit | Contact Us | Site Map | Tools | Jobs at ESPN | Supplier Information | Copyright ©2014 ESPN Internet Ventures.
    Terms of Use (Updated 5/6/08), and Privacy Policy and Safety Information/Your California Privacy Rights are applicable to you. All rights reserved.