Bayern head for Belgrade in buoyant mood

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LONDON, Oct 24 (Reuters) Red Star Belgrade will hope to avoid becoming the latest club to suffer against resurgent Bayern Munich in a meeting of two former European champions in the UEFA Cup tomorrow (0045 IST).

Their clash in the Serbian capital is the pick of the opening ties of the group stage.

Four-times European champions Bayern Munich are the biggest name in the competition after failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in a decade.

The Bavarians have put last season's disappointment firmly behind them and have made a record start to the Bundesliga season, their tally of eight wins, 26 points, 27 goals scored and just four conceded from 10 games a new best for the start of a league campaign.

Bayern, UEFA Cup winners in 1996 when they overcame Girondins Bordeaux, are sweating on the fitness of a number of key players for the Group F match.

Defender Martin Demichelis has flu, fellow centre-half Daniel van Buyten has a bruised thigh while attacking midfielder Franck Ribery is trying to shake off a stiff hamstring.

''All three are doubtful for tomorrow,'' Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld told the club's Web site www.fcbayern.de.

The future of Tottenham Hotspur manager Martin Jol remains the subject of much speculation and the Dutchman could find his position untenable if Spurs lose to Spain's Getafe at White Hart Lane in their opening Group G match.

TERRIBLE START Spurs, who lost to eventual winners Sevilla in the quarter-finals last season, have endured a terrible start and are in the bottom three of the Premier League.

A 3-1 defeat at Newcastle United on Monday increased the pressure on Jol, who appeared to have a disagreement during the match with Bulgaria striker Dimitar Berbatov who had to be told four times to go and warm up after being left on the bench.

Jol insists Spurs need to ''get one result'' and ''the confidence will be there''. They face another struggling side in Getafe, who have only five points from eight Primera Liga games.

AZ Alkmaar have played in every group stage since it was introduced in the 2004-05 season and the Dutch side face a tough Group A opener away to Zenit St Petersburg.

Joint leaders Zenit are in contention for the Russian title with three matches remaining and AZ have injury problems. Louis van Gaal's side are without Demy de Zeeuw and Gretar Steinsson, along with Joey Didulica, Stijn Schaars and Gijs Luirink who face lengthy lay-offs.

Hamburg SV warmed up for their Group D visit to Brann Bergen by thumping Bundesliga champions VfB Stuttgart 4-1 at the weekend.

The Germans, six points behind Bayern in third place, will hope Brann overdid their own title celebrations. The Bergen side were crowned Norwegian champions for the first time in 44 years on Monday but will be missing injured captain Martin Andresen and striker Robbie Winters.

REUTERS CS RAI0900

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