ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC hopes to make a winning return to the San Siro to face his former club Inter Milan tonight when FC Barcelona begin their Champions League title defence.
The Swedish striker, who was last season’s top scorer in Serie A, opted to sign for European champions Barca this summer.
Ibrahimovic notched his first goal with Barca in last weekend’s 2-0 win at Getafe and he hopes to fire his new team to victory in tonight’s Group F clash in Italy.
“I’m not sure whether I will celebrate if I score,” said Ibrahimovic. “It depends on the emotions I feel at the time.
“What I do know is that I will do everything to score, whether it is against Inter or any other rival because Barca is now my team.”
Fans will be eager to witness the duel between former Barca forward Samuel Eto’o, who moved to the San Siro as part of Ibrahimovic deal.
Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho praised Eto’o, who scored the opener in Inter’s 2-0 win over Parma on Sunday, ahead of tonight’s clash.
“Eto’o is the best striker in the world,” said Mourinho. “Last year it was Ibrahimovic but now it’s Eto’o. All my players are the best.”
The other game in the group sees Dynamo Kiev host Champions League debutants Rubin Kazan of Russia.
Kiev’s Champions League hopes rely strongly on their veteran striker Andriy Shevchenko. The Ukrainian was signed by his former club this summer, and although not the same player he was four or so years ago, Kiev will be hoping that he rediscovers the touch that made him one of the most feared strikers in world football in his first spell with them.
Meanwhile Lyon winger Sidney Govou admits his side are desperate to avoid a repeat of last season’s winless start to the Champions League group stage when they embark on their latest campaign tonight against Fiorentina.
Govou insists a strong start to the group stage is vital this time round.
“We will try and make sure that we do not put in the same performance as last season,” said Govou.
“We have to start the competition well and the aim is to qualify from the group stage, a group in which Liverpool are logically favourites.
“If we could finish in first place it would be a plus.”
Fiorentina go into the match at the Stade de Gerland hoping to have Romanian winger Adrian Mutu available.
Mutu, who missed last weekend’s 1-0 triumph over Cagliari, is recovering from a muscle injury.
“We are growing in terms of our play and that is something that can only give us confidence,” said Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli.
The good news for Prandelli is that Alberto Gilardino, who struck three times against Lyon last season, ended his goalscoring drought at the weekend. The Italy international scored the winner to hand his team their second win of the campaign against Cagliari and is expected to lead Fiorentina’s attack.
In Group H, Olympiacos go into their Champions League opener at home to Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar having just disposed of manager Temuri Ketsbaia as coach.
The 41-year-old former Georgia international was dismissed yesterday, just four months after he was appointed and after just three league games of the new season.
Olympiacos have yet to concede a goal in their opening three league fixtures in Greece and have taken seven points from a possible nine, but fan unrest and reports of dressing room disputes have been enough to earn former Newcastle star Ketsbaia the sack.
Bozidar Bandovic takes over as caretaker coach in the meantime.
AZ’s results have been mixed under Ronald Koeman and AZ go into the Group H opener on the back of a surprising 2-1 defeat to Den Haag.
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