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GROUP A
Schalke vs Ferencvaros

Schalke meet Hungarian opposition for the first time in a European competition this evening.

The Germans, winners of the 1997 UEFA Cup, lie third in the Bundeliga and a win should secure their place in the next stage of the competition. With their final game of the group away to Feyenoord on 1 December they will be keen to take all three points and top spot in the table.

Meanwhile, Ferencvaros will have been buoyed by their 1-1 draw at Feyenoord and hope to register their first ever victory on German soil. The Hungarian league leaders have lost four and drawn one of their last five trips to Germany.

Basel v Hearts

Anything but a win for Hearts will more than likely see them crash out of the UEFA Cup at the first stage. Having already lost their opening two games – 3-0 to Feyenoord and 1-0 at home to Schalke – the Scots will be taking on Swiss opposition for the first time in European competition.

Basel gained a creditable 1-1 draw in their opening match away to Schalke and currently lead their domestic league by three points.

All four of their previous European encounters with Scottish teams have been against Celtic and they knocked the Scottish giants out of the Champions League in 2002-2003 at the third qualifying stage.

GROUP B
Standard Liege v Parma

The home team are currently languishing in fifth spot in the Belgium first division and trail league leaders Club Brugge by 12 points. A 1-0 victory over Anderlecht in their last league game, to end a run of three successive league defeats, will have boosted confidence though and they will want to register their first points in the group tonight to move off the bottom of Group B.

With the exception of Standard, all of the teams in the group have registered a win and Parma will be aware that defeat tonight will make qualification extremely difficult.

They opened their group campaign with a 2-0 loss to Athletico Bilbao but bounced back to beat Steaua Bucharest 1-0. The Italians lie third from bottom of their domestic league but have fond memories of their only previous encounter with Belgium opposition. In the final of the 1992/1993 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup they defeated Antwerp 3-1 at Wembley.

Steaua Bucharest v Besiktas

A win for either side this evening should ensure qualification.

Steaua, finalists in the 1989 European Cup, have never conceded a goal at home to Turkish opposition. They began the group stage well, defeating Standard Liege 1-0. A 1-0 defeat at Parma has increased the pressure on the Romanian league leaders to win this evening though – their final game of the group is at Athletico Bilbao.

The team from Istanbul are having a poor domestic season and will want to add to their opening 3-1 group win over Athletico Bilbao. In their only previous match-up with Romanian opposition 30 years ago Besiktas lost an amazing 2nd leg thriller 3-2 to the now-named FC Brasov. Brasov scored three times in the last four minutes to knock the Turks out of the 1974/75 UEFA Cup.

GROUP C
Club Brugge vs Utrecht

Foeke Booy was top goalscorer for Club Brugge when they won the 1989/90 and 1991/92 Belgium titles. He then finished his playing career with Utrecht, whom he now coaches. He led his team to Dutch Cup wins in 2002/03 and 2003/04.

Club Brugge are the unbeaten runaway leaders of the Belgium league but seek their first UEFA Cup group points this evening having lost their only game to-date 3-2 against Dnipro of Ukraine.

For Utrecht three points are essential if they are to progress beyond the group stage. Defeats against Zaragoza and Dnipro have confined them to the bottom of the table.

Dnipro v Austria Wien

Dnipo will win the group if they can overcome their Austrian opponents. Both teams have 100 per cent records in the group but something must give tonight in the Meteor stadium.

So far Dnipro have beaten Club Brugge 3-2 and Utrecht 2-1.

On the two occasions that Dnipro have come up against Austrian teams in European competition they have won, beating FC Tirol in 1989/90 and VfB Admira Wacker in 1993/94.

Unlike Dnipro, who are mid-table in the Ukranian league, Austria Wien are fighting for their domestic championship. They now lie two points behind Rapid Vienna having only managed to draw their last two league games.

Their only game in the group so far saw them overcome Zaragoza 1-0.

GROUP D
Dinamo Tbilisi v Sporting Lisbon

Dinamo have had a disastrous start to their UEFA Cup campaign, losing both games and failing to score a single goal.

Dinamo are the only club remaining in the competition from the first qualifying round and have a poor record against Portugese opposition. Over the four games they played in the UEFA Cup against Boavista in 1996/97 and SC Braga a year later the Georgians managed just one win and one goal. They also conceded ten goals and lost three times.

Sporting Lisbon thumped Panionios 4-1 in their only game to-date.

Sochaux v Newcastle United

Newcastle will book their place in the last 32 with a victory over Sochaux tonight. They will be aware that they have a poor record against French opposition though having been knocked out four times in the five occasions they have been drawn together. That run includes the UEFA Cup semi-final defeat to Marseille they suffered last season.

Both teams have 100 per cent records and have yet to concede any goals in this years competition.

Newcastle have so far beaten Panionios 1-0 and Dinamo Tbilisi 2-0. Alan Shearer, a scorer in both matches, will be absent this evening though through injury.

Sochaux, third in the French league, won 2-0 in Dinamo Tbilisi.

GROUP E
Villareal vs Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough will comfortably qualify for the next stage with a win in Spain today. Two wins, 1-0 away to Aigaleo and 2-0 at home to Lazio, have put the English side top of Group E.

Villareal were unlucky not to come away from Rome with all three points against Lazio. Only an equalising goal five minutes from time deprived them of an excellent victory.

The two clubs have never met before in European competition and Villareal are playing in Europe for only their second time. They reached the semi-final on their European debut last season. Amazingly this will be Villareal’s 12th European game this season having been forced to qualify via the Intertoto Cup competition.

Lazio v Partizan Belgrade

The last time these two sides met was in 1998/99 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup second round. Lazio beat the Serbian team over two legs on that occasion and went on to life the trophy.

This time round the Italians go into the game knowing that failure to take all three points will make qualification extremely unlikely. A 1-1 home draw with Villareal and a 2-0 defeat at group-leaders Middlesbrough reflects their poor start to the Italian league where they currently lie mid-table.

Partizan are top of the Serbian league and unbeaten after the first 13 games. Their only group game to-date was a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Aigaleo of Greece.

However, they have never managed to win in Italy in European competition and their record of five straight defeats is one they will want to improve tonight.

GROUP F
Amica Wronki vs AZ Alkmaar

Amica need to win both their remaining games in the group in order to have any chance of qualifying, starting tonight against AZ Alkmaar. The Polish team will be low on confidence though having been thumped 5-0 at home by Rangers and then going down 3-1 in Austria to Grazer.

AZ have only been beaten five times in 29 previous European games and will be looking to build on their fine start to the competition having beaten Auxerre 2-0 at the start of the month.

Rangers v Grazer AK

The group leaders Grazer travel to Scotland knowing that a win will secure their place in the last 32 of the competition.

Liverpool fans may recall the Austrians winning 1-0 at Anfield in the Champions League qualifying round earlier this year although the English team progressed 2-1 on aggregate.

Grazer have so far registered four points from a goalless draw at Auxerre and a 3-1 home victory over Amica. Hat-trick hero Roland Kollmann will be looking to add to his tally.

Rangers, meanwhile, play only their second game of the group having comfortably beaten Amica 5-0 in October. They come into the came on a high having beaten archrivals Celtic 2-0 at the weekend to close to within one point of top spot in the Scottish Premier league.

GROUP G

Benfica v Dinamo Zagrebrijeka

The Portugese giants will want to bounce back from the 3-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of Stuttgart in their last group match three weeks ago. They will also want to stop conceding so may goals, the 3-3 draw last Saturday with mid-table Rio Ave in the Portuguese Superliga highlighting their current defensive frailties.

Dinamo’s 6-1 victory against Bevern was the tournaments largest margin so far but they have never won a European match on Portugese soil.

The clubs have met once before in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup – Benfice winning over two legs 2-0.

Heerenveen vs Stuttgart

Stuttgart are the competition’s top goal scorers and victory will guarantee them a place in the knockout stage of the competition.

History is on their side having won four of the five encounters they have had with Dutch opposition in Europe.

A comfortable 5-1 defeat of Beveren was followed by an excellent 3-0 win at home to Benfica and Stuttgart’s Cacau will be looking to add to his three goals that he has already bagged in this years competition.

Heerenveen went down 4-2 away to Benfica in their only group match to-date but will have been buoyed by their 3-1 victory at Roosendaal in the Dutch league at the weekend.

GROUP H
Zenit St Petersburg vs Sevilla

Zenit boast the competitions top goalscorer in Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who has 4 goals from the Russians’ two group games.

Group H looks like being one of the tightest and Zenit, who finished the Russian league season in fourth place, will be happy to avoid defeat this evening against the group favourites that are currently lying third in the Spanish league.

The only other time the Spaniards, the only undefeated team left in the group, have visited Russia was in the 1990/91 UEFA Cup. On that occasion they went down 3-1 to Torpedo Moscow and went out of he competition 4-3 on aggregate.

AEK Athens vs Lille

AEK look to break a long sequence of failure against French opposition this evening as they seek their first points in the group. The Greeks have not managed to register a single win in 12 previous attempts and will have to hope that they can make it 13th time lucky.

Lying second in the French league Lille qualified for this competition via the Intertoto Cup and are in their third season of European competition. They opened their campaign with a 1-0 defeat in Germany to Alemannia but bounced back to win the next 2-1 at home to Zenit.

No French team has ever won at AEK’s Spyros Louis stadium and the Greek team are also unbeaten in their first eight games of the domestic league season.

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