Fenerbahçe braced for De Kuip

Fenerbahçe SK's trip to Feyenoord is one of five third qualifying round ties tonight.

Ten teams will all be hoping to take a giant stride today towards the UEFA Champions League first group stage with five of the 16 third qualifying round ties getting under way.

UEFA Cup holders
Feyenoord's last European date produced a night of noisy celebration as they lifted the UEFA Cup against BV Borussia Dortmund in May. But against Fenerbahçe SK it will be a case of right back where we started from for both sides as they aim to return to the UEFA Champions League first group stage from which they departed the competition last autumn.

'Lethal partnership'
For coach Bert van Marwijk victory at home is vital. "They have a lethal partnership in attack and pose an immense challenge," he said. "However, they are vulnerable in defence so we have to try to control the match and we definitely need to score in Rotterdam."

Rüstü will play
To score Feyenoord will have to beat one of the stars of Turkey's excellent FIFA World Cup campaign, goalkeeper Rüstü Reçber. Rüstü will play despite a back problem - some good news for coach Werner Lorant who is without several players due to injury. Tuncay Sanli, Ismail Güldüren, Ali Akdeniz and Simao are all missing.

'We will attack'
Boavista FC also exited last season's Champions League after the first group stage but are hoping for a second bite at the cherry. They will want to defend better at home to AJ Auxerre than they did in drawing 3-3 with Malta's Hibernians FC in the second leg of their second qualifying round tie. Coach Jaime Pacheco said: "We will attack as we want to gain some advantage for the second leg, [but] our main goal is not conceding home goals." Boavista's only absentee is the Brazilian full-back Erivan (thigh). 

Injury woe
Auxerre last played in the Champions League in the 1996/97 season, when they lost in the quarter-finals to the eventual winners, Dortmund. Guy Roux's side travel to Porto without striker Olivier Kapo, who has to an ankle injury. There are doubts over Djibril Cissé (knee), Philippe Mexès (calf) and Johan Radet (calf), although all are expected to recover in time.

Sell-out crowd
For romance, the place to be is Cyprus for APOEL Nicosia FC's home tie against AEK Athens FC. APOEL's dramatic 4-2 win with ten men against NK Maribor last week has set up this match which will attract a sell-out crowd to the GSP stadium. APOEL's record against Greek opposition is impressive with three wins, three draws and no defeats, but the sides' meeting in the Champions League ten years ago went APOEL's way on the away-goals rule after two draws.

Bonus tie
APOEL coach Egen Gerard was formerly the assistant coach of AEK and described the tie as "a bonus". However, Kostas Malekkos was less circumspect, declaring: "We are 100 per cent ready for the game against AEK, especially at home." There might be even greater optimism if APOEL were not missing Bulgarian winger Zaharin Sirakov and Nigerian striker Orosco Anonam through injury.
Sparta sparkling
Belgian champions KRC Genk entertain an AC Sparta Praha side who impressed in last season's competition, qualifying for the second group stage, and sailed through their second qualifying round tie against FC Torpedo Kutaisi. Sparta have made a good start to the new season: their 3-0 defeat of FC Baník Ostrava made it three wins out of three in the league. For their part, Genk's first outing of the season ended in defeat at the weekend, as they lost 3-2 against Sporting Lokeren St-Niklaas Waasland.
Tougher prospect
In the night's fifth and final tie, Maccabi Haifa play their home leg against Austria's SK Sturm Graz in Sofia, the match having been switched from Israel to a neutral European venue due to security fears in the region. The lack of home advantage did not hurt Maccabi in the previous round where they beat FC Belshina Bobruisk 4-0 in Nicosia. However, they are likely to find it tougher going against the Austrian Bundesliga leaders, who have four wins out of five in their domestic league this season.

Schum hoping
Maccabi, who are likely to replace injured goalkeeper Nir Davidovic with Dudu Awat, and partner Nigerian striker Ayegbini Ya'akoubu with Yaniv Katan up front, are aiming to be the first Israeli team to reach the first group stage. Coach Itzhak Schum said: "If we get knocked out of the competition it is not the end of the world, as we will try and win the UEFA Cup." His opposite number Ivica Osim was also upbeat but believed Maccabi would have the edge. "Haifa are favourites, even though the rainy conditions and heavy pitch will give my side an advantage."