DAVID SMITH - Thursday, November 4, 2010
Jozy Altidore will likely see minutes for Villarreal when they try to maintain their Group D lead over hosts PAOK while Sacha Kljestan could also figure in as Anderlecht try to take hold on second place in Athens.
AEK Athens - RSC Anderlecht
Sacha Kljestan has been included in Anderlecht's squad for their Group G encounter against Athens and will hope to take the field on Thursday night when they visit AEK Athens in hopes of breaking free of the three-way second-place deadlock.
With Russian team Zenit St. Petersburg running away atop the group with a perfect record, Anderlecht is locked in a three-way tie with AEK and Hajduk Split for the second spot earmarked for the knockout round.
They hold a slight edge over the other two based on a superior goal differential thanks largely to their 3-0 blowout win over AEK in their last group outing, and will look to jump into sole possession of second with a repeat performance.
Having been a forgotten man with a two-month span without taking the field, Kljestan has enjoyed a renaissance in playing time since making his return in the team's last group outing against AEK.
He was in coach Ariël Jacobs' starting lineup for last week's cup game, then perhaps kept himself in contention for the coming weeks by netting an goal over the weekend against Jupiler League leaders Genk after again getting the start.
His role in the team's attack could come into greater focus depending on the status of star midfielder Jonathan Legear for the game. The Belgium international played a central role in each of the team's last two games, however as he is still gaining full strength after returning from illness, he could be kept out of the starting lineup for what would be his third game in the space of one week.
In addition, Argentinean midfielder Lucas Biglia will miss the game with a hamstring tear suffered during their cup game, and defender Olivier Deschacht is out as he recovers from ankle surgery.
AEK has a long list of players missing the trip for various reasons, with midfielders Grigoris Makos and Papa Bouba Diop, forwards Nathan Burns, Nikos Liberopoulos and Nacho Scocco as well as defenders Traianos Dellas and Sanel Jahić all set to miss the game with various ailments.
PAOK Thessaloniki - Villarreal CF
Having seen a recent upswing in playing time, Jozy Altidore will almost certainly see significant substitute minutes, if not go from the start, when Villarreal try to expand their lead atop Group D with a visit to second-place PAOK Thessaloniki.
Altidore netted his first competitive goal for Villarreal in nearly two years one week earlier in the team's Copa del Rey outing, for which he was rewarded by coach Juan Carlos Garrido over the weekend with his first La Liga appearance of the season.
Altidore is one of three forwards in the squad along with Guiseppe Rossi and Nilmar, and could get a starting spot should Garrido opt to rest of of his two stars amidst their busy schedule.
The team is on top of their game in domestic play as they are currently in third place and within a game of both Barcelona and Madrid above, and will look to extend their ten-game unbeaten run to a second straight win over their Greek counterparts and a stranglehold on the group.
They have fared well on the injury front; only Marcos Senna continues to be absent as he recovers from a hamstring problem, and backup forward Marco Ruben is also unavailable for the game with a thigh problem.
The hosts are reporting no injuries however will be without suspended defender Miroslaw Sznaucner.
Freddy Adu is not a part of FC Aris' 25-man Group Stage roster and will not suit up when the team visits group leaders Bayer Leverkusen.