Big names make early Europa exit

Several clubs hoping to figure prominently in this season's UEFA Europa League will not even feature in Friday's group-stage draw after suffering shock play-off round defeats on Thursday.

Heading the list of victims on Thursday were Italian side Udinese, who failed to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Slovan Liberec, drawing 1-1 in the Czech Republic, despite fielding a strong team, to bow out of Europe before the end of August.

Elsewhere, Bundesliga club Stuttgart - who last weekend sacked coach Bruno Labbadia and replaced him with youth coach Thomas Schneider - drew 2-2 at hone to Rijeka of Croatia to exit the competition 4-3 on aggregate. The Germans conceded the decisive goal in the fourth minute of injury time.

Former European champions Feyenoord were eliminated by Kuban Krasnodar, while Spartak Moscow were surprisingly ousted by modest Swiss club St Gallen, and it was a shocking night for French clubs as Saint-Etienne and Nice were knocked out by Esbjerg of Denmark and Apollon Limassol of Cyprus respectively.

French clubs fail to impress in Europe
That completed a miserable week for French sides in general after Lyon lost to Real Sociedad of Spain in the Champions League play-offs on Wednesday.

In contrast, English Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City had few problems coming through their ties and take their place in Friday's group-stage draw in Monaco. Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas fielded a fringe team that remained more than strong enough to beat Georgia's Dinamo Tbilisi 3-0 on the night and 8-0 on aggregate.

Jermain Defoe scored twice at White Hart Lane, while Lewis Holtby was also on target.

Swansea, meanwhile, lost to 2-1 to Petrolul in Romania, but had already done the hard part by winning 5-1 in the first leg in Wales. Roland Lamah scored Swansea's goal, while Michael Laudrup's team had captain Leon Britton sent-off late on.

Other leading names to progress on Thursday were Spain's Sevilla and their city neighbours Betis, Eintracht Frankfurt and Dynamo Kiev. Fiorentina of Italy also advanced, although only on away goals after losing 1-0 at home to Grasshoppers Zurich.

Thursday's winners will be joined in the group-stage draw by the losers from the UEFA Champions League play-offs and the seven clubs to qualify automatically, including English FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic, Coppa Italia winners Lazio, Valencia of Spain, Freiburg of Germany and French Cup holders Bordeaux.

The final place - left open following Fenerbahce's two-year ban from European competition - will be taken by one of the play-off round losers, with UEFA pulling one of the lucky losers out of a hat on Friday morning.