An intriguing mix of clubs and countries are involved as the UEFA Cup quarter-finals get under way today with four first-leg ties.
Parma FC, who travel to surprise package FK Austria Wien, are the only former winners remaining, while the two other clubs to have tasted glory on the European stage, Newcastle United FC and Sporting Clube de Portugal, meet in England. Newcastle have not won a trophy since lifting the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969 and are determined to go one better than last term when they lost in the last four against Olympique de Marseille.
Sporting, second in the Portuguese SuperLiga, have an extra incentive as they look to add to their UEFA Cup Winners' Cup success of 1964, as this season's UEFA Cup will conclude at their Estádio José Alvalade home on 18 May. Should Sporting eliminate Newcastle, Villarreal CF of Spain or Dutch side AZ Alkmaar will await in the last four.
Both Villarreal, who also made the semi-finals last season when they fell to eventual winners Valencia CF, and Alkmaar are riding high in their domestic championship and retain hope of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League next term. First, though, comes their eagerly anticipated first leg at El Madrigal, where Villarreal have beaten all eight European visitors in this campaign.
Of the eight teams to enter the UEFA Cup via the Champions League, only PFC CSKA Moskva remain. CSKA have won once and been involved in two goalless draws since the 2005 Russian season began last month, while Auxerre ended a run of six winless Ligue 1 games by defeating FC Nantes Atlantique at the weekend. All four ties conclude next Thursday.
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