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The Contenders- UEFA Cup battle

These teams are all contenders for spots in UEFA, but some may be considered dark horses to win it all.

 

Denilson

Real Betis

Betis was handed a spot in the UEFA Cup by Madrid's victory in the Champions' League. With some new signings this year, Betis will hope to accomplism much more. Their line-up is truly World-Class. The new star is Denilson, the most expensive player in the World. Fans are hoping that he combines well with star Nigerian midfielder Finidi George. New signing Benjamin Zarandona was a reveleation last season- he has shown to be a gifted midfielder on the brink of stardom.  Those 3 will create one of the world's most potent and youngest midfields. To complement the attack, Spanish international star Alfonso may be the go-to man for goals. Oli Alvarez hopes to repeat success this season as his striker partner. Alfonso's younger brother Ivan led Spain to this year's U-18 European Championship, and he figures to be a trump card.

 

The Cobra Ilie

Valencia

Valencia is another emerging giant on the World scene. It looks like in 98-99 they have real shots at everything. The line-up is truly packed with stars. The defense is solid with Italian veteran Carboni, Yugoslavian international Djukic, Angloma, voted by ESM as the best right back in Europe in 97-98 when he played for Inter Milan. It is strenghthened by the arrivals of French international Alain Roche and Sweedish international Bkorklund. The midfield showcases talent with Spanish players Farinos and Mendieta. Gabi Popescu is the new Rumanian star, and he is joined by Sweede Stefan Schwarz of Fiorentina. The attack is veritably frightening. The great star is Adrian Ilie, "The Cobra", who first dazzled fans at Valencia coming on last winter. In France 98, he stunned the World with his great skill, and was a world revelation. Argentina's Claudio Lopez joins him on the attack, along with Italian signing Lucarelli, one of the Serie A's revelations from last season.

 

Deportivo La Coru˝a

Deportivo is looking to regain the form it had in the glory days of Bebeto and Mauro Silva. The stars are diverse and from all over the planet. Brasilians Falvio Conceišao, Mauro Silva, and Djalminha- best player of the 97 Brazilian championship, for an outstanding midfield that plays to the rythm of the samba. Added to it is the brilliant Moroccan Hadji, who showed his class during the World Cup. Bassir, another Moroccan, is set to help the potent attack. The goalscoring burden is now placed at the feet of Portugese international striker Pauleta. New acquisition Turu Flores, Argentine international. looks to also be an important piece of the puzzle. Another Argentine, Gabriel Schurrer, joins to help bolster the defense led by outstanding sweeper Nourredine Naybet of Morocco.  Jacques Song'o hopes to keep up his greatness in the net.

 

 

Sa Pinto

Real Sociedad

Last season, the Basque team was a great surprise, keeping 3rd place through the first half of the season. For goalscorers, Bernard Krauss looks to the Balkans- Darko Kovacevic of Yugoslavia and Igor Cvitanovic of Croatia. The new attraction will be the skilled Portugese international forward Sa Pinto. He was last year's signing, but was suspended up until now. The defense is solid and efficient, and is led by Spanish international left back Agustin Aranzabal.

 

Celta de Vigo

Celta battled their way into Europe last season, and they may be able to do it again. It will be very difficult to repeat last season, however, as they must also concentrate on the UEFA Cup. The team is solid and consistent, with Frenchman Dutruel in goal; Argentine Caceres, Dan Egen of Norway, Djorovic, and promising young Spaniard Michel Salgado on defense. The midfield star is Mazinho, Brazilian world champion in 94, combining with Russian Valerie Karpin and Portugal international Bruna Caires. As a forward, there is Haim Revivo, the outstanding Israeli, and Jorge Cadete, another Portugese international.

 

 

Esnaider

Espanyol

Espanyol sports an underacheiving yet talented team. This season, they had a tough draw with Valencia in the Intertoto, so they hope that they have a chance in the league. It will be difficult for the Barcelona team, and the health of the stars will be essential. Spanish goalkeeper Toni was outstanding last season, and emerged as a leader. He was the best in the leageu last season. A weak spot may be the defense. The midfield however is strong and star-studded. New siging Villa of Mexico may be a  revelation. Constantin Galca comes off of a great WC and looks to be the recoverer for the Espanyol midfield. Newcomers include Frenchman Javary from Montepellier, who joins the 2nd season Belgian Lemoine. The forward are the best part of the team. The star is Argentine Juan Esnaider, who was scoring at an excellent rate last season before suffering a serious knee injury. He teams up with Paraguay Miguel Benitez, who is coming off of a fine WC performance. Florin Radiciou of Romania hopes to recover his goalscoring form, and Quique Martin returnas as last season's revelation.

 

 

Real Zaragoza

Zaragoza has it very tough this season, but they cannot be discounted as contenders. Juanmi must retain his great form in goal, and Belsue is the key to the defense. The midfield features "El Toro" Acu˝a of Paraguay, Radimov of Russia, and Spaniards Aragon and Kily Gonzalez. The forwards are strong. A new star is joining them- Yugoslavian forward Savo Milosevic. He is the great hope of the team. Other standouts are Pier Luigi Cherubino, Argentine Gustavo Lopez, and Marc Wooter of Holland.

 

Mallorca

In 1997-1998 they were the Cinderella team, making it to the Cup final and despite losing, they clinched a spot in the European Cup Winners Cup. It is the first time in the club's history that they are in Europe. The 98-99 season looks much bleaker now that  their biggest stars have gone to bigger teams- Ezquerro, Amato, Ivan Campo and Mena. However there is still talent- Engonga, Valeron, Stankovic, and Argentine international keeper Carlos Roa. Another Argentine, "Chupa" Lopez, looks to be an important part of the plans.

The Struggle

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