Real Betis to face Liverpool in Champions League

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Real Betis will have the dubious honour of hosting European champions Liverpool in their opening game of the 2005/06 Champions League on Tuesday night.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:48 IST
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Seville, Spain:

Real Betis will have the dubious honour of hosting European champions Liverpool in their opening game of the 2005/06 Champions League on Tuesday night. Having finished fourth in last season's Spanish Primera Liga, the Seville-based side will be competing in the tournament for the first time in the club's history. Joaquin will be crucial to Betis' chances of progressing to the next stage of the competition. The much sought-after winger is doubtful to take part in Tuesday's match after he picked up a minor knee injury in Saturday's Primera Liga win over Osasuna. High expectations If the Spanish international does miss the game, Ricardo Oliveira will be the one to watch for the home side. The Brazilian scored 22 goals in last year's Primera Liga and he has already netted his first goal of this Spanish season, firing in the penalty that secured Betis three points against Osasuna. Betis may be making their Champions League debut on Tuesday night, but coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer has high expectations for his side. "We want to show to Europe and, also in the best competition, the Champions League, that we are prepared to fight properly in these matches. The dignity is important, but in such a competitive world, where the victory is the only thing that counts, we will try to qualify in spite of the fact that it is very difficult and we have less options then the other teams in theory," said Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, Real Betis coach. Second place The competition draw wasn't particularly kind to the Spaniards - they will face Liverpool, Chelsea and Belgian side Anderlecht in Group G. Betis' captain Juanito believes that his side should aim for second place as he feels English champions Chelsea are destined to win the group. "I think that maybe Chelsea is over the three other teams. The value of Liverpool is more than us or Anderlecht. But Liverpool, Betis and Anderlecht will fight for that second place in the group. So, this match will be very important," said Juanito, Real Betis captain. Liverpool's capabilities cannot be underestimated following last season's mesmerising come from behind win over AC Milan in the Champions League final. Striking duties But Premiership goals have been hard to come by for the Reds this season, with only one in their first three matches. Fernando Morientes is set to miss the match, so striking duties will fall to either Peter Crouch or Djibril Cisse, with coach Rafael Benitez expected to play with only one man up front. Benitez, who won a Primera Liga title and the U.E.F.A. Cup during his time in charge of Spanish side Valencia, expects a tough start to Liverpool's title defence. "We are not thinking about, to retaining trophy. We are thinking about to win one more game, our first game in the group. We know how difficult this game, because we know the atmosphere here in the stadium. So, very difficult, that's for sure," said Rafael Benitez, Liverpool coach. Greatest stage Xavi Alonso will be one of three Spanish players in Liverpool's starting XI on Tuesday. The midfield playmaker, who is likely to be joined by compatriots Luis Garcia and Jose Reina, knows that Betis will be a difficult team to beat at the Manuel Ruiz de Lopera Stadium. "We are ready. It's always..... I think the opponents will be more motivated to play against the European champions, but, by the same time, we are confident and it's a different situation now. We will be careful against Betis' instincts," said Xavi Alonso, Liverpool midfielder. Real Betis want to announce their arrival on European football's greatest stage and there could be know better way to do that than by beating the cup holders. However, Alonso and his team-mates may have something to say about that! (AP)

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