The UEFA Cup quarter-finals offer four intriguing ties as seven experienced European campaigners are joined by a new force.
The most exciting is arguably the all-British affair between Scottish Premier League champions Celtic FC and English side Liverpool FC. The two clubs have a history between them and last met in the same competition in 1997/98, when Liverpool progressed on away goals after a rousing encounter ended 2-2 on aggregate.
Celtic have been in impressive form at home in Europe this season, with wins against FC Basel, Blackburn Rovers FC, RC Celta de Vigo and VfB Stuttgart. Martin O'Neill's men will be buoyed by the return of talismanic Swedish forward Henrik Larsson after a fractured jaw, although fellow striker Chris Sutton is doubtful with a groin injury and Didier Agathe and Magnus Hedman are both ruled out.
Owen among the goals
Liverpool also have injury worries. Central defender Stéphane Henchoz is definitely missing, while there are doubts over Emile Heskey who missed the weekend league win against Bolton Wanderers FC. However, Heskey's strike partner Michael Owen has rediscovered his scoring touch, with goals in Liverpool's last four games.
Italian outfit S.S. Lazio have home advantage for their first leg against Besiktas JK of Turkey, and will be hoping for a better result than they managed in Rome last time round. Then, a 3-3 draw with Polish side Wisla Kraków put their quarter-final place in jeopardy, but an impressive second-leg display secured a 2-1 victory and aggregate success.
Besiktas also scraped through to this stage thanks to a 4-3 aggregate win against SK Slavia Praha, having been forced to survive a dramatic late onslaught from their opponents. Influential defender Zago will miss both matches through suspension following his dismissal in the first leg in Prague.
The remaining two ties feature Portuguese teams, with Boavista FC and city rivals FC Porto bidding to become the first Super Liga sides to reach the semi-finals since Sporting Clube de Portugal in 1990/91. However, Boavista travel to Málaga CF without the suspended Filipe Anunciação and Elpídio Silva, while midfield player Pedro Santos and goalkeeper William Andem are injured.
Málaga, meanwhile, miss midfield players Gerardo García and Miguel Ángel through injury and suspension respectively, although Joaquín Peiró's team will be in confident mood. The Spanish club qualified via the UEFA Intertoto Cup and have gone on to reach the last eight on their European debut.
Portuguese league leaders Porto take on their Greek counterparts Panathinaikos FC with José Mourinho's side in impressive form at home and abroad. They have already enjoyed wins against KP Polonia Warszawa, FK Austria Wien, RC Lens and Denizlispor in this competition.
Pressure on Panathinaikos
By contrast, Panathinaikos edged past RSC Anderlecht in the last round, and have midfield player Pantelis Konstantinidis suspended, while Finnish forward Joonas Kolkka is also doubtful. However, influential captain Angelos Basinas will be fit, and his presence should provide a much-needed boost to Sergio Markarian's side.
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