Coming Euro action has a lot to live up to

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 October, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 October, 1998, 12:00am

EUROPEAN footballers never rest. After the double helpings of Euro 2000 qualifiers last week, it's back to the cycle of major club competitions this week.

From Tuesday to Thursday there is a live match per night on ESPN from the UEFA Cup, Champions' League and Cup-Winners' Cup respectively.

The highlight is Wednesday's 'Group of Death' clash between Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

Otherwise known as Group D, this four-team, home-and-away round-robin has featured in both previous Matchdays with live clashes between each of these teams and Manchester United.

Undoubtedly the glamour group, the previous offerings were both superb.

First off it was Barcelona's 3-3 draw at Old Trafford when they came back from 2-0 down at half-time and 3-2 down later in the match. This game had a disputed Barca penalty, a disputed offside which cancelled out a goal for the Catalans, a red card for Nicky Butt and that brilliant free kick by David Beckham.

The Bayern v Man Utd match had still more excitement with Brazilian Giovane Elber giving the Bavarians an early lead, United fighting back to lead 2-1 and Elber popping up in injury time to punish a rare Peter Schmeichel error with the eq-ualiser.

The group is, as expected, finely poised. It was made more so by Bayern's opening day loss to Brondby when they conceded two in the final three minutes of the match .

Indeed, late, late, goals have been a trademark of the first two Matchdays with decisive scores also occurring in the waning stages of Porto v Olympiakos. PSV v Helsinki, Lens v Arsenal, Ajax v Porto, Galatasaray v Athletic Bilbao and Inter Milan v Sturm Graz.

The later game the same night sees Inter take on early pace-setters Spartak Moscow in Group C. Inter have been slow starting. They lost to Real Madrid in the opener and barely squeaked a win over Sturm Graz with a last-kick effort by Youri Djorkaeff.

Spartak, by contrast, have a 100 per cent record with wins over Sturm Graz (2-0 away) and a come-from-behind 2-1 success against Real.

In both games the Spartak goals were scored by Egor Titov and Ilia Tsimbalar. At least Inter should know who to mark. The same goes for Spartak who will have their work cut out trying to keep Ronaldo, Ivan Zamorano and new signing Nicola Ventola in check. That is if Ronaldo is fit.

On Tuesday we get a chance to see Ronaldo's national teammate and the man who displaced him as the world's most expensive player as ?21-million man Denilson leads Spain's Real Betis against Holland's Willem II in the UEFA Cup second round, first leg.

Denilson flattered to deceive in France 98 with his patented foot-over-the-ball manoeuvre making him seem a one-trick pony. But his form in the most recent Spanish League match was, by all accounts, fantastic so keep an eye on him.

Thursday night it's Cup-Winners' Cup action and Real Mallorca, the controversial conquerors of Scotland's Hearts, hosting Belgium's Genk in a second-round first-leg tie, again live on ESPN.

Hearts had an appeal against their loss in the previous round turned down. They found that one of the Mallorca goal frames was not regulation size. The appeal was turned down but don't be surprised if the match warm-up includes a UEFA official with a tape measure.