Middlesbrough FC, FK Partizan, Villarreal CF are confirmed as the three UEFA Cup Group E qualifiers and all achieved promising domestic results this weekend, although the weekend was less profitable for the eliminated duo of S.S. Lazio and Egaleo FC.
Guaranteed a place in the last 32 by Egaleo's draw with Lazio on Matchday 4, Middlesbrough consolidated in fifth place in the Premiership with a 3-2 win against Manchester City FC on Monday night, Mark Viduka leading the way with two goals. The Australian striker broke the deadlock on nine minutes, his first goal in 12 games, and restored Middlesbrough's advantage early in the second half after Robbie Fowler had levelled. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink increased the lead with a free-kick, and Steve McClaren's side held on despite Bradley Wright-Phillips pulling a goal back late on. With defender Chris Riggott out with a hamstring injury and Franck Queudrue and George Boateng suspended, Colin Cooper came into defence while Michael Reiziger made his first start since August after recovering from a shoulder injury.
Having secured their qualification with a 1-1 draw against Villarreal last Thursday, Partizan were 3-1 winners against FK Cukaricki in their final fixture in the Serbo-Montenegrin First Federal League before the winter break. The scorers were Miroslav Radovic, Simon Vukcevic and Albert Nadj, the third of whom was back in the starting eleven after resolving his dispute with coach Vladimir Vermezovic. Three points clear at the top of their league, Partizan have now withdrawn to their Zemun training camp with no games between now and the trip to Middlesbrough. Defenders Dragoljub Jeremic and Milivoje Cirkovic remain on the injury list.
Fresh from the draw with Partizan that also took them through, Villarreal were unable to capitalise on numerous chances on goal against Real Madrid CF on Sunday and the game ended scoreless. New signing Luciano Figueroa made his first appearance for the club in attack while Juan Román Riquelme returned after shaking off a pulled hamstring. Injury-wise, Roger García, Javi Calleja (both knee) and Sebastián Battaglia (thigh) continue their long-term recoveries while striker José Mari Romero has an ankle injury. Marcos Senna remains suspended until his ban is lifted on 21 December, while defender Rodolfo Arruabarrena is also banned for the visit of Egaleo after a booking against Partizan.
Eliminated with Lazio after their 2-2 draw last week, Egaleo suffered their first Hellenic National League defeat of the season on Sunday, losing 2-1 at home to Kallithea FC. The visitors went ahead through Anastassios Kyrgiakos, and although Georgios Barkoglou levelled from the spot, Theofanis Gekas headed an 83rd-minute winner against an Egaleo side clearly tired after a hectic spell of domestic and European fixtures, although they remain fourth. Long-term absentees Christos Moustogiannis and Günther Friesenbichler have been operated on the knee and leg respectively, and now Emmanouel Liapakis (knee) and Konstantinos Papoutsis (adductor) have joined the injury list and both are doubts for the trip to Villarreal.
Lazio's European fixtures for the season ended when they drew with Egaleo, and on Sunday, despite taking the lead through Goran Pandev, they went down 2-1 to leaders Juventus FC. With the club 14th in Serie A, president Claudio Lotito admitted that the board was considering the position of coach Domenico Caso.
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