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Top three in fine fettle

Published: Monday 13 December 2004, 10.18CET
Group E: Qualified trio Middlesbrough FC, FK Partizan and Villarreal CF all enjoyed profitable weekends. features

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Published: Monday 13 December 2004, 10.18CET

Top three in fine fettle

Group E: Qualified trio Middlesbrough FC, FK Partizan and Villarreal CF all enjoyed profitable weekends.
With the qualifying issues from UEFA Cup Group E already decided, top three Middlesbrough FC, FK Partizan and Villarreal CF all enjoyed profitable weekends. S.S. Lazio, meanwhile, have completed their UEFA Cup programme and must now look to improve their standing in Serie A, while Egaleo FC continued their solid domestic form.

With left-back Franck Queudrue still suspended for the trip to Southampton FC on Saturday and central defenders Ugo Ehiogu and Chris Riggott still missing through injury, manager Steve McClaren made just one change for the side that defeated Manchester City FC on Monday, George Boateng returning to midfield after his ban in place of Szilárd Nemeth. Middlesbrough trailed 2-0 with a minute remaining of normal time, but Stewart Downing's corner was headed into his own net by Danny Higginbotham and then Downing struck a fine 20-metre shot two minutes into added time to give Middlesbrough an unlikely point.

Partizan will travel to Middlesbrough on Wednesday buoyed by the return of Serbo-Montenegrin international defender Milivoje Cirkovic after five weeks out with a knee injury. With the First Federal League on its winter break, Partizan prepared for their return to European action with a 3-0 friendly win against second division FK Teleoptik on Saturday, Dragan Ciric, Nenad Brnovic and Borko Veselinovic getting the goals. Defender Dragoljub Jeremic is the only injury.

Villarreal moved up to 12th place in the Primera División thanks to a 2-1 win at Getafe CF on Saturday, with Juan Román Riquelme once again instrumental. The Argentinian playmaker provided telling passes for Antonio Guayre's early strike and Diego Forlán's winner. On Monday, midfield player Javier Calleja enters the final stage of his recovery from a knee ligament injury suffered in July and is expected to return to normal training in January. Juan Manuel Peña has returned after an ankle injury but striker José Mari Romero remains sidelined with a similar complaint.

Lazio recovered from 0-2 and 2-3 to salvage a point at home against US Lecce on Saturday night. Paolo Di Canio started in attack and scored twice in the second half, while Tommaso Rocchi scored the first goal for the Rome side. The point was enough to keep coach Domenico Caso in a job, Lazio's official website announced after the game. The capital club are 15th in Serie A.

Egaleo remained in fourth place in the Alpha Ethinki after their goalless draw at Aris Thessaloniki FC, the team coached by Egaleo's former boss Georgios Hatzaras. Stephane Demol's side were missing long-term absentees Christos Moustogiannis and Guenther Friesenbichler, who have undergone surgery on knee and leg injuries respectively, while Emmanuel Liapakis did not play against Aris due to a knee problem and is considered doubtful for the trip to Villarreal.

Last updated: 13/12/04 22.56CET

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