LOSC Lille Métropole and FC Zenit St. Peterburg both gained vital wins at the weekend ahead of their UEFA Cup Group H meeting on Thursday.
Lille warmed up for the visit of the Russian side with a 1-0 home win against AS Saint-Etienne on Saturday to stay within a point of unbeaten Ligue 1 leaders Olympique Lyonnais. Stéphane Dumont's ninth-minute strike proved enough to give the UEFA Intertoto Cup winners three points. Full-back Grégory Tafforeau has recovered from an arm injury meaning that the only player sidelined for UEFA Cup duty is midfielder Mathieu Chalmé, due to a fractured cheekbone, as Lille aim to bounce back from their opening defeat at TSV Alemannia Aachen.
Zenit kept their Russian Premier League title hopes alive on Sunday with a 3-1 win at FC Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast. Coach Vlastimil Petrzela reacted to the previous 3-0 loss at the hands of PFC CSKA Moskva by dropping defenders Martin Horák and Jan Flachbart for Martin Škrtel and Daniel Chirita, while Vladislav Radimov sat out the first match of a five-game domestic ban. Striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who scored a hat-trick in a 5-1 win against AEK Athens FC on Matchday 1, came off the bench to score Zenit's third goal after Oleg Vlassov and Igor Denisov had struck either side of Vladimir Bystrov's dismissal. CSKA's 1-1 draw against FC Krylya Sovetov Samara leaves them two points ahead of FC Lokomotiv Moskva and three clear of Zenit with two matches to play.
Sevilla FC remain second in the Primera División but are now six points behind FC Barcelona after they fell to a 3-0 defeat by fellow UEFA Cup challengers Real Zaragoza on Sunday. Striker Aziza Makukula misses Thursday's Group H bow at home against Aachen with a ligament tear, while Carlos Aranda is doubtful due to a pulled hamstring, the same injury which has put Jesuli's participation in doubt. Jesús Navas has recovered from injury and played on Sunday, making him available for selection against the German outfit.
Aachen travel to Spain following a 2-1 home win against SC Rot-Weiss Oberhausen on Sunday which kept them in fourth position in the 2. Bundesliga. Stefan Blank and Kai Michalke scored the goals in the first half for Aachen, who had captain Erik Meijer sent off for two yellow cards 20 minutes from the end. Midfield player Simon Rolfes will not play against Sevilla after breaking a cheekbone.
Despite suffering that heavy defeat by Zenit, AEK remain unbeaten at the top of the Hellenic National League. Alessandro Soares scored his sixth goal of the season to salvage a 1-1 draw away against Aris Thessaloniki FC at the weekend and AEK may be glad to sit out this week's UEFA Cup action with the visit of third-placed Olympiacos CFP just six days away. Midfield player Konstantinos Katsouranis is undergoing special treatment for abdominal pains but is expected to return before AEK attempt to recreate their domestic form on the European stage, at home against Lille on 25 November.
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