SPORTS

Olisadebe out of Panathinaikos squad for Champions match

Panathinaikos striker Emmanuel Olisadebe has not been included in the Greek side’s 18-man squad for its Group C Champions League match with Sparta Prague today. A club official told Reuters that the Nigerian-born Polish international, who played a key role in Panathinaikos’s first-phase success, has been given a special fitness program and will watch the match from the stands. The 23-year-old forward’s form has dipped in the Greek league and another scoreless performance against Panachaiki on Saturday has seen him fall out of favor. Panathinaikos coach Sergio Markarian last week denied a rift with his coveted striker after the Czech press quoted complaints from Olisadebe at the lack of first-team opportunities. «I’m 57 years old and I’ve seen a lot of these scenes before,» the Uruguayan coach told Greek reporters. «When you are 23 you want to play all the time; unfortunately only 11 can play. «I understand how Olisadebe feels, I speak to all the players and I will speak to Emmanuel too. I don’t have any kind of problem with him,» he said. Olisadebe, who was named in France Football’s shortlist for European Player of the Year, was one of the stars of the World Cup qualifying phase with a series of goals that helped Poland become the first team to clinch a finals berth. Panathinaikos is second in Group C with four points, behind leader Real Madrid, which has nine points. The Greek side has one point more than Sparta, whom it beat 2-0 last week in Prague. Porto props up the table with just one point. In the group’s other match, Porto’s coach Jose Mourinho is gambling on an attacking strategy for the visit of Real Madrid today. Victory keeps alive its hopes of qualifying for the Champions League last eight. Mourinho tested out a formation with offensive characteristics in the week’s first training session. It saw striker Helder Postiga spearheading the attack, Nunco Capucho and Candido Costa on the wings, with Brazil’s Deco Sousa as the playmaker. Porto suffered a shock defeat over the weekend, losing 3-2 to Beira Mar. The loss put Porto in third place in the premiership, eight points behind leader Sporting, and practically out of the running for the championship. Porto has been something of a lucky charm for Real. The two times that the teams have been in the same group, in 1998 and 2000, Real emerged as European champion.(Reuters)