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28.08.2008 20:34

Champions League opposition

Jordi Clos

FC Barcelona have been drawn in the same group as Sporting Lisbon, Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League and all three will pose different questions and problems.

Sporting Lisbon

39015roche.jpgThe Leões are, along with Porto and Benfica, one of Portugal's big three teams. They are coached by Paulo Bentoa, the former Oviedo player, who oversaw the team's campaign last term when they finished a creditable second in the table.

It is in midfield that Sporting's main strength lies as they can boast the talent of the highly-rated duo Miguel Veloso and Moutinho, both of whom are being watched by some of Europe's major clubs. Brazilian-born players form the core of the team and within their ranks the Portuguese outfit have former Blaugrana star Fabio Rochemback, who has returned to the club after a spell in England.

The main problem for Sporting has been their inability to score goals but they hope that the arrival of Portugal international Helder Postiga will solve that.


FC Barcelona will visit the arena where they won the European Cup Winner's Cup when they play Basel in Switzerland at St. Jakob Park, which was also one of the venues for the European Championships this summer.

baselia.jpgThe Swiss outfit caused a surprise when they made it in to Europe in 2002-03 and played in the Champions League, but since then they have been regulars, having won the last four domestic league titles.

Coach Christian Gross is in charge of the team for the ninth consecutive season and he has assembled a young squad which contain three talented Argentinian players as well as former Gimnástic de Tarragona playmaker David Abraham and Turkish forward Derdiyok.

Basel as supported by tennis superstar Roger Federer and wear the same Blaugrana colours as FC Barcelona.

Shakhtar Donetsk

shakjtar.jpgThe Ukrainian outfit have risen to prominence in recent seasons and challenged Dynamo Kiev's dominance in the league and their place as the country's most famous side in Europe.

Currently coached by Romanian Mircea Lucescu, Shakhtar qualified for the group stages after easing past Dynamo Zagreb in the preliminary round this month. They have no less than seven Brazilian players in their team, while Croatian Dario Serna is the team's leader.

Shakhtar's strengths are their formidable forward line as well as the atmosphere their fans can create at home games, but they do have defensive problems.
Photos: Sporting Club, FC Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Photos: Sporting Club, FC Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The stadiums
FC Barcelona will visit Basel's St. Jakob Park and Sporting's Jose Avalade stadium for the first time in the Champions League, although they have played at Shakhtar's home ground in 2004.

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