Romanian champions Rapid travel to Belgium to play RSC Anderlecht after being held to a 0-0 draw in Bucharest, while Moldovan champions Sheriff head for Ukraine intent on improving on their stalemate against FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
A Romanian victory in Brussels would be a surprise, and with a sell-out 26,000 crowd expected at the Constant Vanden Stock stadium, Anderlecht will be in no mood to roll over. Intent on using the same starting eleven he employed last week, their coach Hugo Broos knows there is much at stake.
'Life or death'
"I realise that this a match of life or death for the club," he said. "If we get knocked out, the season has already failed for the main part, for the players and the fans. But I do not think that will happen. I expect 200 per cent sharpness from the team."
Broos's opposite number Mircea Rednic has a full squad to choose from, and is buoyed by the fact that his side have not lost an official game abroad for four years. Striker Daniel Niculae spoke for many when he said: "We are taking the field with the intention of winning."
Rednic could shuffle his pack and select an extra creative midfield player in the form of Ionut Lutu - a move which would allow the Moroccan Nourredine Ziyati to act as a defensive midfield player. Rednic may also recall Marius Maldarasanu, sidelined since March, to patrol the right flank.
Meanwhile, injuries to defender Valentin Necsulescu and defensive midfield player Dan Lacusta have hampered Sheriff as they prepare to face Shakhtar. Whatsmore, with five straight wins in the league, Shakhtar - who expect to include Olexiy Bielyk and Olexiy Gai - are not in the mood to be generous hosts.
"I think we have a good chance after an away draw - we will be supported by passionate fans at home," said Shakhtar coach Bernd Schuster. "We have not yet shown our full strength to Sheriff, as there is a certain strategy about two-legged matches."
In another finely balanced game, FK Partizan visit Sweden needing to improve on a 1-1 draw at home against Djurgårdens IF, with a third qualifying round tie against Newcastle United FC at stake. "I am optimistic," said Partizan coach Lothar Matthäus. "I am convinced we will win in Sweden and play Newcastle."
Slovenia's NK Maribor also need to get over drawing 1-1 at home as they travel to Croatia's NK Dinamo Zagreb, while Slovakia's MŠK Zilina carry a slender 1-0 lead into the second leg of their match against Israel's Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC. Many other games look all but decided after heavy first-leg wins. So the biggest shock of the night might well come in F.Y.R. Macedonia if FK Vardar can maintain the advantage they took from a 2-1 win against PFC CSKA Mosvka in Russia last week.
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