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St Gallen prepare to meet Uefa champions

Galatasaray's Jardel will be hoping to see a lot of the St Gallen goal Keystone

The reigning Swiss football champions, St Gallen, step onto the European stage on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League qualifying match against the Turkish side, Galatasaray.

This content was published on August 9, 2000 - 11:23

The team from Istanbul are the current UEFA Cup holders and will pose a difficult challenge for Marcel Koller's team. As well as being proven performers at a European level, the club has a budget more than 20 times that of St Gallen.

Even St Gallen's home advantage has been minimised. Since their own Espenmoos stadium is not deemed adequate for European competition, they have been forced to hold the first leg at the ground of their arch-rivals, Grasshoppers Zurich.

The Grasshoppers fans may be wishing Koller's side well, however, with the match being seen by some as a barometer for the state of the national game. In the last three seasons no Swiss club has made it beyond the Champions League qualifying stages. Sion in 1997, Grasshoppers themselves in 1998 and Servette in 1999 all fell at the final hurdle.

Koller has some idea of the task that lies ahead after travelling to Munich at the weekend to see Galatasaray in action. The Turkish side were beaten 3-2 by Real Madrid in a friendly tournament held in the German city, but St Gallen's manager was still impressed by tonight's opponents and particularly their star striker, Jardel.

"He's not only strong in the air," said Koller after the game, "but he's also got some alarming dribbling skills. I can see how he managed to score ten Champions League goals for FC Porto."

Brought to Istanbul at a cost of 26 million francs, the Brazilian successor to Hakan Sukur is not the only threat to the St Gallen defence. Galatasaray have also added the firepower of Serkan to their side, the former Samsunspor player finishing last season as the Turkish league's top scorer.

The Brazilian spine of the Galatasaray team will also be hard to break, with goalkeeper Taffarel, defender Capone and striker Marcio all likely to start in Zurich.

St Gallen too can point to a couple of Brazilians, although midfielder Jairo and the club's latest signing, Didi, have a way to go before they can hope to eclipse their compatriots in the Turkish side.

While fans of both clubs will be hoping to see plenty of hard work on the pitch, most will be hoping that the night will be a quiet one for the police, whose presence has been strengthened in the hopes of avoiding any crowd trouble.

Turkish clubs have suffered from a particularly bad image in recent years, with many matches marred by violence and demonstrations, often linked to the country's internal war over Kurdish rights.

Swiss police have already had to deal with a spot of trouble surrounding the Turkish side. On Wednesday night the St Gallen hotel hosting the team had to be searched following a bomb alert. Police said a warning letter stated that the bomb had been placed to draw attention to the circumstances of political prisoners in Turkey.

"There was a bomb alert yesterday evening, but I am not going to give any details," a police spokesman said.

by Mark Ledsom

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