Knockout stages in sight for Spurs, Stoke
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Premier League sides Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City face arduous trips in the UEFA Europa League this midweek, but the right result for both could seal their places in the tournament's knockout stages with two group games to spare.

Tottenham can clinch qualification from Group A with a win away to Rubin Kazan in Russia, two weeks after beating the same opponents 1-0 at White Hart Lane. However, with the trip to Tatarstan, over 700 kilometres east of Moscow, coming just three days before a Premier League London derby away to Fulham, manager Harry Redknapp can be expected to field a second string starting line-up.

Stoke will advance from Group E if they can beat Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel and Dynamo Kiev beat Besiktas in Istanbul. The Potters' European campaign - their first in almost four decades - has gone well so far, with two wins and one draw from their first three group games.

However, the fixture calendar has been even less kind on Tony Pulis' side. They lost 3-1 at home to Newcastle on Monday evening, and after returning from the Middle East, will have just two days to prepare for a trip to Bolton.

Republic of Ireland international Jon Walters is nevertheless confident that Stoke are capable of coping with the situation. "This is a particularly tough week for us; we have two very difficult games and a lot of travelling in front of us, but that said, we know we are capable of getting two positive results and putting this result (against Newcastle) behind us, starting with the game out in Tel Aviv," he said.

England's other two representatives both have home games to look forward to, with Fulham hosting Wisla Krakow at Craven Cottage needing a positive result to keep qualification from Group K in their own hands.

Birmingham City may be in the second tier Championship, but they are top of Group H and are aiming to complete a double against Belgian side Club Brugge when the sides meet at St Andrews. The Blues scored in stoppage time to win in Belgium a fortnight ago, and their opponents come into this game in crisis. Brugge sacked coach Adrie Koster in the wake of their 5-4 defeat at home to Genk at the weekend which was their fourth successive loss.

Celtic on back foot
Britain's UEFA Europa League representatives face differing prospects in this week's round with Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City hopeful of an early progression, while Celtic face a must-win home encounter with Rennes.

Meanwhile, Celtic continue to struggle on the domestic front, and the Scottish side need a win at home to French side Rennes to keep alive their chances of advancing from Group I. The two teams drew 1-1 in Brittany two weeks ago, and Celtic's Welsh international midfielder Joe Ledley knows the significance of the return in Glasgow.

"I think they have to go for it now as they're on the same points as us, so it's going to be a big game for both teams," he said. "They will be up for it but so will we, and hopefully there will be a lot of fans there to support us and we'll look forward to it.

"It's a massive game. We have to get the three points. Obviously it would depend on the other results but I don't think the draw would be enough, so getting the win is vital."

A draw in Glasgow and a win for Udinese away to Atletico Madrid would be enough for the Italians to qualify for the knockout stages.

Elsewhere, Sporting Lisbon have already qualified for the last 32, and they can make sure of first place in Group D with a win away to Vaslui in Romania. Anderlecht need just a draw at home to Sturm Graz, while Schalke and Maccabi Haifa will advance from Group J with wins.