Champions League second legs: The lowdown
Monday, August 3, 2015
Celtic want an away goal, David Lafata is back for Sparta and Steaua are hopeful at Partizan – UEFA.com previews a selection of the 11 second legs on Wednesday.
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The UEFA Champions League third qualifying round reaches its climax on Wednesday with 11 second legs. UEFA.com's team of correspondents preview the action.
• First-leg results
• This week's schedule
•Play-off draw: 12CET, Friday, streamed live in the UEFA.com DrawCentre
• Bye to play-offs: Valencia, Manchester United, Bayer Leverkusen, Lazio, Sporting CP
HJK's Liverpool warm-up (Wednesday, 16.00)Ahead of the long trip to Kazakhstan to decide a tie goalless after the first leg, HJK warmed up by facing Liverpool in a friendly on Saturday at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. Liverpool won 2-0 but the match offered valuable experience for several HJK players and coach Mika Lehkosuo was also able to rest some key men thanks to their blank league weekend. In fact, HJK's league position was strengthened without them playing as RoPS Rovaniemi and SJK Seinäjoki both lost.
Meanwhile, centre-back Juhani Ojala and striker Macoumba Kandji have both rejoined HJK from Terek and Al-Faisaly respectively, though are ineligible for the Astana game. Centre-back Valtteri Moren, on the other hand, will be transferred to Waasland-Beveren in Belgium, but may play his last game for HJK on Wednesday.
Celtic seek away goal (Wednesday, 18.30)
Celtic will become the first Scottish club to travel to Azerbajan in European competition when they face Qarabağ. The Scottish champions, who will be without the injured Charlie Mulgrew, have a slender 1-0 lead and midfielder Stefan Johansen knows the importance of getting an away goal in Baku. "We need to score in Azerbajan," said the Norwegian international. "When you are playing with an away goals rule, it's important not to concede at home and we managed that.
"We have an important lead but I don't think the job is done. The Champions League is such an important thing for everyone at this club and that's why we're so focused on Wednesday night's game." Ronny Deila's side will be backed by the local Celtic supporters club, The Bhoys of Baku, who are made up of Scots and British nationals working in the Azerbaijanji capital.
Sparta unleash Lafata (Wednesday, 18.45)
Top scorer in the Czech First League last season, David Lafata missed Sparta Praha's 2-2 first-leg draw at CSKA Moskva through injury, but he is raring to help his side reach the play-offs. The 33-year-old returned after two months out to hit the equaliser in a 3-1 comeback win against Baník Ostrava on Saturday, and feels his eye for goal could be useful in another end-to-end encounter. "I was in the stands in Moscow and felt my legs wanted me to go and join in," he said. "We will have to play the same positive football in the second leg as it's clear we don't know how to play for a goalless draw."
Steaua below strength (Wednesday, 20.30)
Having triumphed 1-0 at Botoșani on Saturday, Steaua Bucureşti will visit Partizan in encouraging domestic form. Joint top in Romania after four games, the Militarii have even taken the luxury of resting their first XI ahead of recent European tests, yet they could well be missing two key players when they kick off in Belgrade with the tie level at 1-1. Captain Fernando Varela notched Steaua's first-leg equaliser but he is struggling with a groin injury, while playmaker Nicolae Stanciu has only a narrow chance of appearing due to muscle problems. "Our doctors did everything possible, but his hopes are slim," commented club president Helmuth Duckadam.
Form guide favour Shakhtar (Wednesday, 20.45)
Shakhtar welcome Fenerbahçe fresh from a 2-0 weekend triumph over Hoverla Uzhhorod – their third successive victory at the start of the 2015/16 Ukrainian Premier League season. Their match sharpness could be significant, particularly in the latter stages, against a side whose domestic campaign does not begin for another 11 days. "We should play for a win and focus on our opponents," said Taison, who was responsible for the Pitmen's best chances in the goalless first leg. "We are producing good results in Ukraine and want to be positive in the UEFA Champions League, too. We are ready for different scenarios, but we still want to score in 90 minutes."
All times CET