The Austrian side FC Kärnten are confident of springing a surprise tonight as the UEFA Cup first round comes to a conclusion with four second-leg matches.
Hannes Haubitz's Kärnten are up against the powerful Dutch side Feyenoord, who won the competition in 2002 and are favourites for the tie. Kärnten are also missing Croatian forward Marijo Maric and defender Mario Hieblinger who are injured and suspended respectively for the home leg.
However, Kärnten's narrow 2-1 first-leg defeat, and the luxury of having scored an away goal in Rotterdam, gives them hope. "These two are key players for us," said Haubitz, "but I am sure that the team will pull together to compensate for their absence. We have to wait for our chance and then we could be set for a surprise."
Dutch without Pardo
Feyenoord, meanwhile, have travelled without Sebastián Pardo. The midfield player did not return from international duty with the Chiliean Under-21s in time. Captain Kees van Wonderen has also been ruled out with a hamstring injury sustained in training. The 34-year-old could be out for several weeks and is likely to be replaced in midfield by Jorge Acuna. Left-sided defender Gerard de Nooijer is a doubt because of a knee injury, so youngster Ferne Snoyl is standing by.
Brøndby IF, who travel to FK Viktoria Žižkov tonight, will also be confident of progressing to the second round after denying their opponents a goal in Denmark in the first leg. However, they have only a one-goal advantage to take to the Czech Republic and are also hampered by injury with their striker Kasper Dalgas suffering with a knee problem.
The German club FC Schalke 04 also have a major injury concern after their captain Ebbe Sand was ruled out of tonight's return leg against NK Kamen Ingrad. The Danish striker has had a knee injury for the past month and, although he is close to returning, his coach Jupp Heynckes said: "It would be too soon for him to play" against the Croatian side in the Arena AufSchalke. Sand reluctantly agreed he is "not 100 per cent fit yet". Schalke will be disappointed not to be able to call on Sand's attacking skills as the first leg finished goalless.
Ingrad, meanwhile, are injury-free but coach Nenad Gracan is aware of the strength of the opposition. "Schalke didn't play to their capabilities in the first game, we are expecting much more pressure in their stadium," Gracan said. Zoran Zekic, the top-scorer in the Croatian league, leads the line for Kamen.
The other German side in action tonight, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, travel to the Czech Republic to meet FK Teplice with a 2-1 deficit and without their captain Alexander Knavs. The Slovenian international has a hamstring injury that he picked up at the weekend. "It is a huge blow, but we will just have to cope without him," the Kaiserslautern coach, Eric Gerets, said.
Gerets has another problem in attack as Vratislav Lokvenc has an achilles injury. He has, however, travelled with the rest of his team-mates and will have a late fitness test. On a brighter note, Lucien Mettomo and Dimitrios Grammozis have both recovered from respective injuries and are available.
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