Mascherano set to play first UEFA match

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano are only just getting used to life in the English Premier League. Now they get their first taste of UEFA competition.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:36 IST
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Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano are only just getting used to life in the English Premier League. Now they get their first taste of European competition. After the most surprising move of the transfer window, the two Argentine stars are set to line up for West Ham in the UEFA Cup on Thursday when the Hammers return to Europe for the first time in six years. Acquired from Brazilian club Corinthians, striker Tevez and defensive midfielder Mascherano have to adjust to the fast pace of the Premier League before they can make an impact in England. So far, only Tevez has pulled on the famous claret and blue shirt for a game, and that was for 30 minutes as a substitute in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Aston Villa. The fact that they are now on the roster of a club which has never won the league in its 106-year history shows that the Hammers - a European Cup Winners Cup champion 41 years ago - has the ambition to match the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. "The Argentines are the cream on top of the cake and, hopefully, they can take us forward to the next level," said West Ham manager Alan Pardew, who hopes that his team will capture a healthy first-leg lead against Sicilian club Palermo at Upton Park on Thursday. Palermo: An emerging force Palermo has few title successes in its history but is emerging as a force in Serie A with defenders Cristian Zaccardo and Andrea Barzagli from Italy's World Cup winning squad as well as Australia's Mark Bresciano. With most of Europe's powerhouse teams engaged in the more prestigious Champions League, European soccer's second tier competition has few eyecatching matchups among the 40 games scheduled for Thursday. Defending champion Sevilla is unbeaten in 14 domestic and UEFA Cup games as it goes to unheralded Greek club Atromitos while Ajax Amsterdam, four-time European Cup winner which lost in the Champions League qualifying round, goes to Norway's IK Start. Many of the clubs in action from the big leagues have been living in the shadows of the powerhouse teams for decades and now have the chance to capture a big trophy. Parma won the UEFA Cup seven years ago and goes to Russia's Rubin Kazan while another Serie A team, Livorno, hosts Austria's Pasching. Chievo visits Portugal's Braga in the first leg. Of the other Spanish clubs in action, Espanyol, always in the shadow of crosstown rival Barcelona, goes to Slovakia's Artmedia Bratislava which surprisingly reached the group stage of the Champions League last season. Osasuna visits Turkey's Trabzonspor and Celta Vigo travels to Belgium's Standard Liege. It's been five years since a German club won a European tournament - Bayern Munich in the 2001 Champions League - and four Bundesliga teams are trying to capture the UEFA Cup for their country for the first time since Schalke nine seasons ago. Two of them face teams from Denmark, Eintracht Frankfurt hosting Brondby and Hertha Berlin taking on OB Odense. Bayer Leverkusen visits Switzerland's Sion and Schalke meets French club Nancy. English clubs were runners-up in both last season's cup finals in Europe - Arsenal to Champions League winner Barcelona and Middlesbrough to Sevilla in the UEFA Cup. Now Newcastle goes to Estonia's Levadia, Blackburn visits Red Bull Salzburg and Tottenham travels to Slavia Prague. (AP)

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  • Michael Jackson Quinonez
  • Javier Mascherano

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