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Auxerre on the brink

AJ Auxerre's first match against opposition from Russia ended in a 4-0 defeat by PFC CSKA Moskva on Thursday.

Although qualification for the semi-finals now appears nigh on impossible, Auxerre have scored five goals at home in a UEFA Cup fixture this season, against Amica Sport on 2 December. CSKA, who were close to advancing from the UEFA Champions League group stage that same month, have also lost by six goals in France previously - against Olympique de Marseille in the inaugural Champions League in 1992/93.

They drew 1-1 at CSKA's 'home' ground, the Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn Sportspark in Berlin, with Abedi Pelé's 27th-minute opener cancelled out by Ilchat Faizulin ten minutes into the second half. A fortnight later, Marseille turned on the heat at the Vélodrome with a hat-trick from Franck Sauzee and further goals from Pelé, Jean-Marc Ferreri and a 24-year-old Marcel Desailly taking them to a then-record 6-0 win en route to lifting the trophy.

CSKA's next meeting with a French club took place earlier this season in Group H of the Champions League, where they confronted Paris Saint-Germain FC. Goals from Sergei Semak and Vágner Love gave CSKA a 2-0 win at the Lokomotiv stadium. Semak played a captain's role in the return fixture at Parc des Princes as CSKA cruised to a 3-1 success. At that stage the Moscow club seemed set for the knockout stages, but a late run of form from holders FC Porto pushed CSKA into the UEFA Cup.

However, the Muscovites have flourished in the competition, reaching the quarter-final stage with wins against SL Benfica and FK Partizan. Both home matches were won 2-0 and both away games finished 1-1, giving a 3-1 aggregate scoreline in each round.

Auxerre advanced to the last eight after overcoming AFC Ajax and fellow Ligue 1 contenders LOSC Lille Métropole but will need to put in their finest performance of the season to oust CSKA. Should the Burgundians complete the task, Guy Roux would be a step closer to continential glory after guiding the club from the regional leagues to the title in 1996. All that eludes him, after 44 years at the helm, is a European trophy.