German clubs FC Bayern München and Hamburger SV lead a list of five sides who can seal their progress to the UEFA Cup last 32 with Matchday 3 victories today.
The UEFA Cup group stage enters the home straight on Thursday, with five teams vying to seal their places in the knockout rounds with time to spare, including two of Germany's finest.
FC Bayern München lead the quintet, and the disappointment of being held at home by Bolton Wanderers FC three weeks ago would be quickly forgotten if they beat SC Braga in Portugal to secure their Group F progress. That is providing Bolton do not win against FC Aris Thessaloniki in the section's other fixture, and having claimed an impressive 3-0 victory over FK Crvena Zvezda in their only previous outing, the Greek side provide formidable opposition.
After the disappointment of last season, Ottmar Hitzfeld's team are making a two-pronged assault this season, their UEFA Cup ambitions matched by their Bundesliga hopes. Bayern are just a point clear in Germany, with like-minded Hamburger SV leading the chasing pack along with Werder Bremen going into the last three games before the winter break. Huub Stevens' charges could devote their attentions to those fixtures by ensuring progress to the last 32 after just two outings if they see off Stade Rennais FC at home in Group D, and SK Brann fail to beat NK Dinamo Zagreb.
In Group C, ACF Fiorentina's preparations for their match with AEK Athens FC have been overshadowed by news of the death of coach Cesare Prandelli's wife. They can mark their 100th UEFA club competition game by going through, however, a win in Greece enough to secure a top-three spot if the section's other game ends all-square. Victory for FC Zenit St. Petersburg at home to point-less 1. FC Nürnburg will be enough for them regardless of results elsewhere, while Helsingborgs IF will progress beyond the group stage for the first time if they beat FK Austria Wien but the visitors, like every other team in the competition, will not give up easily.