By Kevin Ashby
Two teams will qualify for the UEFA Cup quarter-finals tonight as Newcastle United FC and AZ Alkmaar defend 3-1 first-leg leads against Olympiacos CFP and FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
Having being eliminated from the UEFA Champions League following a defeat by Liverpool FC in England, Olympiacos must score three times at St James' Park at the very least to avoid a similar fate. Their task is made more difficult by suspensions to Grigorios Georgatos and Athanasios Kostoulas after their dismissals a week ago.
Newcastle striker Alan Shearer, chasing a first honour with his hometown club before retiring this summer, warned his team-mates to "take nothing for granted". "If they score first it could be a nervous night and we don't want that," added the scorer of the opening goal in Athens. "We must do a professional job. It would be criminal to throw this match away."
Meanwhile, Shakhtar need to score at least three at the Alkmaarderhout - where Alkmaar are unbeaten in 17 matches this season. If the Ukrainian club are to defy the odds, Julius Aghahowa and fellow forward Brandão will have to continue a run which has brought them nine goals in seven games. "We need to win to make it up to our fans, and scoring three goals in the Netherlands is not impossible," said Aghahowa.
While those ties will conclude, the meeting of former European champions FC Steaua Bucuresti and Villarreal CF sees its first instalment after last week's first leg was postponed due to snow in the Romanian capital. This tie will now finish on the east coast of Spain on Sunday, by which time the draw for the latter stages will have taken place.
Tomorrow five more sides will win a place in Friday's quarter-final draw, to be held at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland at 13.00CET. It is an open draw, so teams from the same country can face each other. The quarter-finals will be played on 7 and 14 April, the semis on 28 April and 5 May, and the Estádio José Alvalade final on Wednesday 18 May.
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