Sampdoria, Sheriff face defining moment
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Sampdoria and Sheriff Tiraspol stand to make a little bit of history for themselves should they progress to the UEFA Champions League group stages after their respective play-off matches on Tuesday.

Sampdoria have never appeared in the group stages and have not competed in European club football's top competition since they lost to Barcelona in the 1992 European Cup final. While they trail German opponents Werder Bremen 3-1 they can take heart that they have an away goal and their rivals were thrashed 4-1 in their opening Bundesliga match on Saturday by Hoffenheim.

Certainly Sampdoria goalkeeper Gianluca Curci has not given up hope that aided by an inspiring performance from talented forward Antonio Cassano they can stun their German opponents. "The away goal has given us heart and a lot of hope and our fans will be like having an extra man on the pitch," said the 25-year-old. "We matched Werder in the first leg but just didn't take our chances so morale wise we are going into this match in good shape."

Sheriff for their part also trail but only 1-0 to unglamorous Swiss outfit Basel and with a vociferous home support guaranteed can have genuine cause to be optimistic that after ten previous failures to reach the lucrative group stage they can become the first side from their country to do so. The encounter promises to be a high octane one if the first one is anything to go by as six players were booked, five from Sheriff, who also had Aleksandr Erokhin sent off for a second bookable offence.

Israeli side Hapoel Tel Aviv will also be out to reach the group stage for the first time as they host Austrian outfit Salzburg holding a 3-2 lead and the 2002 UEFA Cup quarter-finalists will be hoping their Nigerian international goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama is in the form he showed at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.

Salzburg by contrast are looking to expunge the sour memory of last year's edition when they went out at this stage beaten by... Israeli opposition in the shape of Maccabi Haifa. However, Salzburg's veteran coach Huub Stevens is none too confident of being able to overturn the tables on their opponents.

"After losing 3-2 our chances have been reduced of course," said Stevens. "I reckon they stand at around 30 per cent," added the 56-year-old Dutchman, who guided Bundesliga side Schalke 04 to the 1997 UEFA Cup.

Portuguese debutants Sporting Braga have already put out Scottish giants Celtic and are on the brink of claiming an even bigger scalp in that of Spanish side Sevilla as they travel to Spain with a 1-0 lead.

It is a long time since two-time UEFA Cup Winners Cup winners Anderlecht had a good run in Europe but they have a real chance of making the group stage as they start all square at home to Partizan Belgrade with the first leg ending 2-2.