Two former UEFA Cup winners are among a number of established names facing the prospect of early European elimination when the UEFA Europa League play-offs conclude on Thursday.
FC Schalke 04, triumphant in the 1997 final, surprisingly lost 2-0 at HJK Helsinki in the first leg and would represent arguably the biggest scalp in the Finnish club's history given the Royal Blues' exploits in reaching the UEFA Champions League semi-finals last season. No team from the Veikkausliiga has participated in the group stage of a UEFA club competition since HJK in 1998/99.
Two-time winners Sevilla FC host Hannover 96, Schalke's Bundesliga counterparts, trailing 2-1. That was the fourth successive win in all competitions at the start of the season for the Lower Saxony club, who are enjoying European football for the first time since 1992/93.
Runners-up to FC Porto three months ago, SC Braga visit BSC Young Boys with the tie finely poised at 0-0 and hoping their European campaign, which last season consisted of 19 matches in reaching the Dublin final, does not falter at the first hurdle.
AS Roma, meanwhile, welcome ŠK Slovan Bratislava for Luis Enrique's first home match in charge with damage to repair, having succumbed to a solitary Martin Dobrotka goal in Slovakia. City rivals S.S. Lazio, by contrast, travel to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to face FK Rabotnicki with the comfort of a 6-0 lead.
Like Roma and Schalke, Panathinaikos FC and FK Partizan were also part of the elite in in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League, yet they too have work to do if they are to be among the 48 clubs in Friday's group stage draw, which takes place at 13.00CET.
Panathinaikos, knocked out of the Europe's premier club competition by Odense BK earlier this month, are on the brink of a second continental elimination this season following a 3-0 loss at Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC. Partizan host Shamrock Rovers FC level at 1-1.
Paris Saint-Germain FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC are all but assured of a group stage berth, however, following respective 4-0 and 5-0 away victories against FC Differdange 03 and Heart of Midlothian FC. Tottenham's London rivals, Fulham FC, are also in a position of strength thanks to a 3-0 defeat of FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk at Craven Cottage.
Competing in only their second European campaign, Aalesunds FK take on AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands protecting a 2-1 advantage. The Norwegian side, like Fulham, started in the first qualifying round, the clubs having entered the UEFA Europa League as two of three Respect Fair Play winners.
The status of all 38 play-off ties can be found in the UEFA.com MatchCentre.
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