Playing in Champions League
qualifying is probably the last thing Real Madrid, Manchester United and
The three soccer powers hope to advance to the group stage of Europe's
premier club competition with fellow tournament winners Liverpool and
Internazionale also facing third-round qualifying -- they didn't finish
high enough in their leagues.
There are six games Tuesday and 10 Wednesday, with the return legs Aug.
24-25. Sixteen teams will advance. Group games begin in mid-September,
and the final is May 25 in Istanbul, Turkey. FC Porto is the defending
``Real Madrid has to be in the Champions League, whatever it takes,''
Madrid defender Ivan Helguera said.
With some of the world's top stars -- Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Luis
Figo, Roberto Carlos and David Beckham -- the nine-time European Cup
champion slumped to third in its league in 2003-04. Real plays at Polish
champion Wisla Krakow on Wednesday. Zidane has recovered from a toe
injury and Beckham from a foot problem.
United, the 1999 winner, is missing more than a half-dozen regulars for
its Wednesday game at Romania's Dinamo Bucharest. Strikers Ruud van
Nistelrooy and Louis Saha and defender Wes Brown are hurt. Gabriel
Heinze and Cristiano Ronaldo are on Olympic duty, and defender Rio
Ferdinand is suspended. United lost 3-1 to Arsenal in the Community
Shield exhibition Sunday.
``It is a killer for us in terms of trying to give players enough rest,''
manager Alex Ferguson said.
Juventus, at Sweden's Djurgarden on Tuesday, will be missing reigning
European soccer player of the year Pavel Nedved. The Czech midfielder
injured a knee at Euro 2004. Juventus won the competition in 1996 and
has appeared in three finals since.
Inter, a two-time winner in the '60s, plays Swiss champion FC Basel.
Striker Christian Vieri and defender Fabio Cannavaro are injured for
Inter. Brazil's Adriano is expected to partner Alvaro Recoba up front.
Liverpool, a four-time winner, visits Austria's Grazer AK at Arnold
Schwarzenegger stadium Tuesday. Grazer won its first Austrian title last
season. The Reds will have England midfielder Steven Gerrard, who has
recovered from a thigh injury.
Two-time winner Benfica, which recently hired former Italy manager
Giovanni Trapattoni, plays Belgian champion Anderlecht.
Last year's finalist, Monaco, faces Slovenia's Gorica; Spain's Deportivo
La Coruna, a semifinalist in 2003-04, meets Ireland's Shelbourne; and
Bayer Leverkusen, which lost the 2002 final to Real Madrid, plays Czech
team Banik Ostrava. Also featured are Dynamo Kiev, a 1999 semifinalist,
and Norway's Rosenborg, in the tournament nine of the last 10 years.