Tonight's UEFA Cup fourth round second-leg matches could see the last two German teams eliminated from the competition before the quarter-final stage.
BV Borussia Dortmund will be the only German side remaining in European competiton if VfB Stuttgart and Hertha BSC Berlin are eliminated. Stuttgart's task looks tricky after losing 3-1 away to Celtic FC last week. They are without three defenders - Fernando Meira, Marcelo Bordon and Silvio Meissner - through suspension for the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion return.
Stuttgart coach Felix Magath was certainly in no doubt of the gravity of the task facing his side, especially since Celtic welcome back burly striker John Hartson from suspension, yet remained quietly optimistic. "
We only have a chance if we play at our highest level," he said. "Right now it seems that Celtic have the advantage."
Hertha, Stuttgart's 1. Bundesliga counterparts, will be hoping the same fate does not befall them as they aim to defend a 3-2 first-leg lead against Boavista FC. Both teams are missing four regulars, though Boavista's Silva has declared himself fit to play. If selected the striker will need to be at his sharpest as Hertha are yet to concede away from home in the competition. The German side's coach, Huub Stevens, said of the Portuguese challengers: "They have to score goals, that means they will attack." Boavista's city rivals, FC Porto, should have little trouble eliminating Denizlispor of Turkey after a 6-1 success last week.
Power and pace
Liverpool FC have the luxury of a 1-0 lead to defend at Anfield against AJ Auxerre, the only club flying the French tricolore in Europe, who welcome back Djibril Cissé. Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier praised Cissé's ability but preferred to dwell on his side's attacking prowess. "We know all about his pace and how powerful he is," Houllier said. "But we have Emile Heskey and Michael Owen in attack and Owen's record of goals in Europe is very good."
Undefeated domestically, Turkish Super League leaders Besiktas JK need to overcome SK Slavia Praha in Istanbul to progress following a 1-0 defeat in the Czech Republic. Striker Ilhan Mansiz returns, though defender Zago is suspended. Coach Mircea Lucescu said: "
We are mentally and physically ready for the game." Slavia's Miroslav Beránek countered: "If we score it will be crucial." The winners will face either Wisla Krákow or S.S. Lazio in the last eight, though their meeting in Poland has been postponed following a pitch inspection.
The tie between AEK Athens FC and Málaga CF is also difficult to call following a stalemate in Spain - AEK's seventh draw in nine European games this season. Coach Dusan Bajevic has called for a positive start, saying: "Our target is to score an early goal to avoid nervousness." Michalis Kapsis is an injury doubt for AEK, while Kizito Musampa and Vicente Valcarce return for Málaga. Another side from the Greek capital, Panathinaikos FC, will defend a 3-0 first-leg lead away at RSC Anderlecht.
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