After solid opening-leg showings, Manchester City and Hamburg are set to reach the UEFA Cup quarter-finals on Thursday while holders Zenit St Petersburg have work to do if they are to survive.
With the likes of Andrei Arshavin in the side, Zenit romped to the title last season but a 2-0 loss to Italy's Udinese has the Russians on the verge of elimination. A year ago Dick Advocaat's side did pull matters out of the fire when they lost 3-1 in Marseille but turned things around in the return to win on away goals.
With English sides having buried Italy's UEFA Champions League hopes to leave Serie A unrepresented in that competition in the quarters for the first time in seven years Udinese are Italy's last survivors in Europe - and scalping the holders would at least somewhat compensate for their compatriots' shortcomings.
Like Udinese, Manchester City have a 2-0 advantage from the first leg achieved against Danish side Aalborg and midfielder Stephen Ireland says City will be expecting to advance. "We've done well away from home in the UEFA Cup so I think we're strong and peaking at the right time of the season," Ireland told ITV. "We're feeling confident going there."
City have made little impression in Europe aside from a Cup Winners Cup success in 1970 but with significant financial backing behind them expectations have risen accordingly among fans who have little to be satisfied with in the current league campaign, with the club siting in midtable. Aalborg's Thomas Enevoldsen will miss the second leg after his booking for a heavy tackle on Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Hamburg, under former Spurs boss Martin Jol, have spent all season firmly involved in the Bundesliga title race. But further advancement in Europe this season depends on pilfering a win in Galatasaray's Ali Sami Yen Stadium after the match in Germany ended 1-1.
Hamburg will likely be without German international midfielder Piotr Trochowski, who injured knee ligaments in a weekend win over Energie Cottbus. "His participation in Istanbul is touch and go," said Hamburg doctor Oliver Dierk. "But Trochowski has made the trip, as has Michael Gravgaard, who has a sore groin. It will be a tough match out there - but it is within our power to go through," Jol told the club website.
Galatasaray, who won the won the tournament in 2000 for Turkey's first European trophy, will be missing midfielder Arda Turan, who has a knee injury. He joins Emre Gungor, Servet Cetin, Mehmet Topal and Tobias Linderoth on the sidelines.
In other action, Ukrainian pride is at stake as Dynamo Kiev seek to hang on to their 1-0 lead over Metalist Kharkhiv while compatriots Shakhtar Donetsk need to get back on terms after losing by the same margin at Russian outfit CSKA Moscow, who lead thanks to Brazilian Wagner Love's penalty. Paris St Germain FC are fighting to stay alive and are away to Portugal's Sporting Braga following their goalless draw in Paris.
Like Hamburg, Marseille have tasted success in the European Cup but their fate hangs in the balance as they travel today to the other former European champions left in the competition in the shape of Ajax, who also lifted the UEFA Cup in 1992. Marseille have a 2-1 advantage from the opening game in France but Marco van Basten's side will be confident of overcoming that deficit on their own patch.
Also playing today are Werder Bremen who will be looking to hang on to a 1-0 advantage as they travel to France to meet St Etienne, whose primary focus is avoiding the drop.