DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Jozy Altidore will hope to see sub minutes for Villarreal in Zagreb while Sacha Kljestan and Anderlecht look to start off their Europa League campaign with a home win over 2008 champions Zenit.
Dinamo Zagreb - Villarreal CF
Jozy Altidore is one of three forwards on Villarreal's roster for their trip to Dinamo Zagreb, and will likely take the field as the Yellow Submarine try to take an early stranglehold on Group D.
Villarreal finally got their La Liga campaign moving with a convincing 4-0 thrashing of Espanyol over the weekend, and will have momentum on their side as they head east to take on the Croatian champions in their first group encounter.
While Altidore has not featured in either of their two league matches, he figured into both legs of the team's qualifying win over Dnepr to reach the group stage, getting the start in the away leg in Belarus.
The American will most likely begin the game on the bench with Guiseppe Rossi and Marco Ruben favorites to get the nod up top for coach Juan Carlos Garrido, however is a likely candidate to take the field should the Spanish coach look to add a bit of attacking flair during the latter stages of the game.
Dinamo's domestic season is well underway with the team looking strong through seven games , holding a third-place standing on the strength of their four wins.
Head coach Vahid Halilhodić, who took the job after being dumped by the Ivory Coast just months before the team's disappointing showing in the World Cup, will only be without suspended defender Leonard Mesaric as they look to surprise the group favorites.
Villarreal will need to be wary of Brazilian midfielder Sammir who is on a goalscoring run with ten in all competitions for the team, but boast a mostly full-strength squad as only midfielder Cristobal will miss the game due to suspension.
RSC Anderlecht - Zenit St. Petersburg
Having become a forgotten man in Anderlecht's domestic season in recent weeks, midfielder Sacha Kljestan will hope to find himself in Ariël Jacobs' plans as they host former holders Zenit St. Petersburg in the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium on Thursday.
The Belgian powerhouse have started their domestic season strongly as expected, winning four of six games with only one goal allowed so far. Even though they do trail Genk by a pair of points thanks to a pair of goalless draws, they are looking likely candidates to once again surge to the championship when the dust has settled next spring.
They are entering Group G play with some amount of trepidation as they were bested by Serbian underdogs Partizan in the Champions League play-off round, however stand a strong chance of attaining a top-two finish in a group that looks tough yet entirely manageable.
Their Russian opponents are already two-thirds through their domestic season, and look likely to cruise to the championship as they hold a six-point advantage with a pair of games in hand over their closest challengers.
They will undoubtedly have their sights set on May's final in Dublin, as they have already had a recent taste of the winner's podium with their victory in 2008, and are looking one of the strongest teams heading into group play.
Anderlecht coach Jacobs does have some injury woes heading into the game as defender Roland Juhasz has been set back with a hamstring problem while midfielders Cheikhou Kouyata and Kanu are struggling with respective back and hamstring issues.
Zenit look to have a full squad as they are reporting no injuries and have no suspensions heading into the game.
Freddy Adu will watch from afar when Aris host holders Atlético Madrid in the first game of Group B action.