Man City, Lech target Europa League progress


Associated Press

Posted on November 29, 2010 at 8:04 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 30 at 8:36 AM

LONDON (AP) — The eight sides already through to the Europa League knockout stages could be joined by several more this week if the fixture list withstands the freezing conditions sweeping northern Europe.

Manchester City and Lech Poznan can progress from Group A when they host Salzburg and Juventus on Wednesday, but with snow and icy conditions forecast it is far from sure that all this week's 24 games will go ahead.

Sporting Lisbon should have no such problems when it aims to clinch the point it needs against Lille to join Zenit St. Petersburg, Stuttgart, CSKA Moscow, BATE Borisov and FC Porto in the next round.

Spartak Moscow, FC Twente and Rangers will be among the eight sides to drop into the tournament from the Champions League.

Like Lech Poznan, Manchester City will be sure of a place in the next match if it wins. Last-place Salzburg must win its two remaining matches to have any chance of qualifying, with any other result eliminating the Austrian champion.

"We have to believe in our chances," Salzburg coach Huub Stevens said. "But we should also be realistic. Manchester City and Juventus are the two favorites in our group."

Not least with Salzburg traveling to England without five injured players and a crucial domestic league game with Austria Vienna scheduled for Saturday.

"We will give everything against Man City on Wednesday," Stevens said. "But we'll be looking forward to Saturday as well because we surely need a fresh team then."

City has won just two of its past eight matches, but winger David Silva said a 3-1 loss to Lech Poznan did not reflect its strong performance.

"European games are more strategic, almost like games of chess," Silva said. "There's a lot more emphasis on tactics, certainly from the teams we have played against.

"But I think we're doing OK so far. If it was not for the bad luck we encountered in the last game, we would probably be on top of the group. We're not far away, and it's in our hands to do well."

Juventus will be out of contention if it stumbles in Poland. Armand Traore and Simone Pepe are likely to be used as emergency fullbacks for the Italian giant.

Traore is expected to fill at leftback with Fabio Grosso and Paolo De Ceglie unavailable, while Pepe is one of two options coach Luigi Delneri has to replace injured duo of Marco Motta and Zdenek Grygera, and the ineligible Frederick Sorenson.

The alternative is to move Leonardo Bonucci from the center of defense.

Juventus is on a run of 13 games without loss in all competitions made up of five wins and eight draws.

Group B leader Bayer Leverkusen can qualify with a win at Rosenborg in another of Wednesday's 12 matches, but any other result could leave the German side needing a positive result against defending champion Atletico Madrid in the final round of group matches.

Atletico could already be through by then if it beats Aris on Wednesday.

Odense and Getafe both need to win their meeting in cold and snowy Denmark to stand any chance of advancing behind Stuttgart in Group H, but the home side is coming off a poor 2-0 home defeat by Brondby.

The team looked devoid of spirit in Sunday's loss, which left it 19 points behind leader FC Copenhagen, and Odense's Northern Ireland goalkeeper Roy Carroll has also told the club he wants to move back to Britain to be with his wife and two children.

On Thursday, Rapid Vienna must beat Porto to retain a chance of advancing to the knockout stages.

The Austrians will miss injured key players including captain Steffen Hofmann and striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, while Yasin Pehlivan and Markus Katzer are both doubtful after picking up thigh injuries in a domestic league game on Sunday.

Paris Saint-Germain is unbeaten in its four Group J matches and can advance with a win against Sevilla at Parc des Princes on Thursday.

PSG wasted a chance to move top of the French league standings after conceding a goal with three minutes to go in a 2-2 draw at Lyon on Sunday but coach Antoine Kombouare said he was proud of players who are now unbeaten in eight matches in all competitions.

"We are a tough team, and we stuck together tonight, which is promising for the future," said Kombouare, whose team has not conceded a goal in its last seven European games at home.

Sevilla leads the standings with nine points, one more than PSG. Both teams will qualify with a draw if third-placed Borussia Dortmund fails to beat Karpaty Lviv in the group's other match.

PSG trained on a snow-covered pitch on Monday morning and more snowfalls are expected for Thursday with temperatures to remain around freezing.

Striker Mevlut Erding, who didn't play at Lyon with a right thigh injury, ran and trained without the ball Monday.

Group K leader Liverpool is on course to qualify but will be without key defender Jamie Carragher after he sustained a suspected dislocated shoulder in Sunday's 2-1 Premier League loss to Tottenham.

With captain Steven Gerrard already sidelined for three more weeks with a torn hamstring, Liverpool is increasingly short of options all over the team.

With Carragher out, Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Kyrgiakos will play in central defense.

"We don't know yet how bad Carra's injury is but not having him in the team will be a really big blow for us," fullback Fabio Aurelio said. "We just hope it's not too serious and he's back playing for us soon became he's so important for us."

Sampdoria travels to PSV Eindhoven in Group I for its first ever competitive game against a Dutch side, having fought back from a goal down to draw 1-1 with Serie A leader AC Milan on Sunday.

Giampaolo Pazzini scored his fourth goal in two games to earn a share of the points and help put the club's dispute with his strike partner Antonio Cassano behind it.

Sampdoria is currently third on five points, two behind second placed Metalis Kharkiv and five behind Eindhoven.

Palermo needs its attacking duo of Fabio Miccoli and Josip Ilicic to maintain their form after both were on the scoresheet in Palermo's 3-1 win over AS Roma on Sunday.

The win lifted Palermo to sixth in the Serie A, but the Italian side is third in Group F.