The UEFA Cup emerges from its winter break tonight with six former winners among the 32 sides still in contention – and Juande Ramos seeking a third crown.
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The UEFA Cup emerges from its winter break tonight with six former winners among the 32 sides in contention, including Tottenham Hotspur FC whose manager Juande Ramos is seeking a third successive victory.
The first legs of the last-32 ties will be played on Wednesday and Thursday, with former winners Galatasaray AS, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, PSV Eindhoven, RSC Anderlecht and FC Bayern München all looking to join the select band of teams to have lifted the trophy twice. Meanwhile, two-time winners Tottenham are bidding to become the fourth three-time champions after Liverpool FC, FC Internazionale Milano and Juventus.
Triumphant in 1971/72 and 1983/84, Tottenham travel to SK Slavia Praha on Thursday. Their manager Ramos – who has already faced Slavia this season, winning 4-2 with Sevilla FC in the UEFA Champions League – is aiming to add to the back-to-back titles he claimed in this competition with the Andalusian club, in Eindhoven and Glasgow in 2006 and 2007.
This season's final will be held at the City of Manchester Stadium on 14 May, and 1995/96 winners Bayern are among the favourites to be in attendance that night although they make a dangerous trip down memory lane on Thursday. The Bavarians visit Aberdeen FC – the side who beat them in the quarter-finals of the 1982/83 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, en route to picking up the trophy at Real Madrid CF's expense in the final.
Catching the eye among Wednesday's games is the meeting of 1999/2000 winners Galatasaray and their 1987/88 counterparts Bayer 04 Leverkusen, with the Turkish team's German coach Karl-Heinz Feldkamp attempting to show his compatriots he is more sprightly than his 73 years might suggest. Rangers FC host Greek giants Panathinaikos FC while Sporting Clube de Portugal play their 200th tie in UEFA club competition at home to FC Basel 1893.