Pressure on Barca; Security tight in Istanbul


Barcelona’s Brazilian striker Rivaldo knows exactly what’s on the line in Wednesday’s Champions League game at AC Milan. “We’re all aware what the match means,” he said, mindful the Spanish club lost 2-0 at home last month to the Italians and has only three points from three games in Group H as it teeters on the brink of elimination. The other match in Group H in the fourth round is also volatile as Leeds plays in Istanbul against Besiktas. Leeds has taken only 140 fans to the game with security expected to be tight. In Group E, Juventus plays at Spain’s Deportivo with both clubs on five points. Group F has Paris Saint-Germain at Bayern Munich as they share first place with six points with Rosenborg. In Group G, leaders PSV Eindhoven play at Manchester United. To complete the lineup, it’s Panathinaikos vs. Hamburg (E), Helsingborg vs. Rosenborg (F) and Anderlecht vs. Dynamo Kiev (G). Group E Juventus and Deportivo lead with five points. Deportivo will be without injured captain Fran Gonzalez and midfielder Mauro Silva as the Galicians try to be rebound from a 3-0 weekend loss to Real Madrid. Juventus will play without French star Zinedine Zidane, who is suspended for a reckless tackle in the previous match with Deportivo. Filippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Del Piero and Alessio Tacchinardi are expected to be back after missing recent games. In the other match, Hamburg goes to Panathinaikos. The Greeks should have Polish striker Krzysztof Warzycha and stopper Yiannis Goumas available. Injured midfielder Paulo Sousa is in doubt. Hamburg will be without injured midfielder Rodolfo Cardoso and striker Mehdi Mahdavikia is away at the Asian Cup.

Group F Paris Saint-Germain goes to Bayern Munich, each sporting six points to top the group. The French side is healthy with PSG player Laurnet Leroy suggesting Bayern can be beaten on the counterattack. Rosenborg, which also has six points, plays at Sweden’s Helsingborg (three losses in three games). Helsingborg hopes to avenge an embarrassing 6-1 loss three weeks ago against the Norwegians. Rosenborg is fresh from winning its ninth straight Norwegian league title.

Group G Group leader PSV Eindhoven takes six points to Manchester United, which is expected to be healthy with striker Andy Cole and winger David Beckham playing. United, battling for second place and tied with Dynamo Kiev on four points, is sure to field its best side. “I think the players will be up for this one and certainly we will be playing our strongest team,” manager Alex Ferguson said. Beckham and Ryan Giggs were both benched. Group H Barcelona, 2-0 losers to AC Milan earlier in Spain, could be knocked out with another loss. Key midfielder Josep Guardiloa is injured and replaced by Spanish junior international Xavi Hernandez. The Catalans are coming off a 6-0 league win over Real Sociedad and are preparing for the first Real Madrid derby of the season this weekend. AC Milan is coming off a 2-1 league loss to Bologna. Andriy Shevchenko is the team’s most consistent player and Paolo Maldini is questionable with the flu. Besides security concerns in Istanbul for the Besiktas-Leeds match, the Turks will look to avenge a 6-0 pounding from Leeds in England. Coach Nevio Scala will be without French striker Pascal O. Nouma, banned by UEFA for four matches.