UEFA: Sevilla look to qualify for next stage

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Defending titlist Sevilla and four-time European champion Ajax are among a handful of clubs that can qualify for the 3rd round of the UEFA Cup.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:37 IST
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Defending titlist Sevilla and four-time European champion Ajax are part of a handful of clubs that can qualify for the third round of the UEFA Cup this week. Sevilla can advance with a win over Grasshoppers in Zurich on Wednesday in Group C. Ajax will secure a place in the top three if it beats Group F leader Espanyol in Amsterdam on Thursday. English clubs Newcastle, Tottenham and Blackburn already have advanced, as has Scottish club Rangers, which is bidding to play the May 16 final in its home city of Glasgow. Two-time champion Parma of Italy also has advanced. The first three clubs in the eight groups advance to knockout round of 32, where they will be joined by the eight third-place clubs from the Champions League. The group stage comprises eight groups of five. The final rotation is set for December 13-14. Sevilla is second in Group C with four points from two games. It is two points behind AZ Alkmaar, which can advance with a point from its game against visiting Slovan Liberec. Liberec also has four points, with Braga next with three and Grasshoppers none. The Spanish club will again be without injured right winger Jesus Navas, while Italian midfielder Enzo Maresca, who scored twice in last season's final against Middlesbrough, faces a battle to recover from a sprained knee ligament. Sevilla has mounted an impressive league run of five wins and a draw, which has left it in second place in the Primera Liga, one point behind FC Barcelona. Ajax, which won the European Cup four times and the UEFA Cup in 1992, has had a rough week. It drew 0-0 with Sparta Prague on Thursday and three days later lost to Sparta Rotterdam 3-0 in the Dutch league - a match in which defender Jaap Stam limped off injured. Making a point Espanyol only needs a point to advance. In the other Group F game, Austria Vienna hosts Sparta Prague. Israeli club Maccabi Haifa can advance from Group A if its earns at least a draw at Livorno on Wednesday. Partizan Belgrade hosts Auxerre. Dinamo Bucharest can advance from Group B on Wednesday if it beats Bayer Leverkusen at home. Besiktas hosts FC Brugge in the other match. Tottenham leads the group with nine points. In Group D, Lens and OB Odense can advance. Lens plays Parma and OB faces Osasuna on Wednesday. Parma has six points, Lens and Odense have four, and Osasuna and Heerenveen have one each. "We want to go as far as possible," midfielder Daniele Dessena said. "Against Odense and Heerenveen, we were able to come back after going a goal down, demonstrating the ability and the desire to lift up our heads immediately, as if nothing had happened. This is something we will have to maintain, ready to react in difficult moments." French club Nancy will get a top-three finish in Group E if it defeats two-time champion Feyenoord at home on Thursday. Wisla Krakow hosts FC Basel in the other game. A third straight victory for Panathinaikos will guarantee the Greek club's place in the next round. It hosts Rapid Bucharest on Thursday. Mlada Boleslav hosts Paris Saint-Germain in the other match. The French club is reeling from the violence at its last UEFA Cup match, a 4-2 loss in Paris to Hapoel Tel Aviv. An undercover French police officer shot a PSG fan to death while trying to protect another supporter. PSG isn't likely to advance - it is in last place in Group G with one point. Panathinaikos leads with six points, followed by Hapoel with four, Rapid with three and Mlada with one. Fenerbahce can join Newcastle in the next round if it beats Celta Vigo in Thursday's Group H game and if Eintracht Frankfurt fails to beat the Magpies. (AP)

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