Some of Europe's most prestigious clubs face stiff examinations this Thursday as they aim to secure berths in the UEFA Cup Round of 16.
Last week's first-leg games left a raft of ties intriguingly poised, with Spanish contenders Villarreal CF and Club Atlético de Madrid both eager to bounce back after suffering 1-0 defeats at FC Zenit St. Petersburg and Bolton Wanderers FC respectively. English Premier League side Bolton will be desperate to build on El Hadji Diouf's goal, however, as they dream of gracing the final in nearby Manchester on 14 May.
RSC Anderlecht, UEFA Cup winners in 1982/83, will also be striving to protect a slender lead when they visit FC Girondins de Bordeaux, but Laurent Blanc's Ligue 1 high fliers will draw hope from their away goal in last week's 2-1 loss. They still need to get themselves on the scoresheet, though, as must Aberdeen FC after twice letting a lead slip at home against four-time European Champion Clubs' Cup winners FC Bayern München to draw 2-2.
The task for fellow former continental kings SL Benfica is to keep 1. FC Nürnberg quiet in Germany, following their 1-0 victory last time out. That proved to be the only first-leg loss for the four Bundesliga sides still left in the competition, but 1987/88 winners Bayer 04 Leverkusen face no less of a tricky evening after playing out a goalless draw with 1999/00 champions Galatasaray AS in Turkey. Elsewhere, the tie between Rangers FC and Panathinaikos FC is identically poised after the Scottish giants failed to break down the Greek side at Ibrox.
There should be no such nerves for Werder Bremen, Olympique de Marseille, PSV Eindhoven, Everton FC, Hamburger SV and Sporting Clube de Portugal, though, as all secured healthy wins at the first time of asking. Moreover, Juande Ramos will be buoyant about continuing his pursuit of a third successive title – after leading Sevilla FC to glory in each of the last two seasons – with his Tottenham Hotspur FC side holding a 2-1 lead going into the home leg of their tie against SK Slavia Praha.
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