Few would have expected relegation from the English Premiership to cloud the thoughts of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City during their UEFA Cup forays this season. However, Europe has become a distraction with both clubs currently in the bottom six.
The irony of the situation will not be lost on fans of Portsmouth, comfortably ensconced domestically in mid-table but who will exit the tournament even if they beat Dutch side Heerenveen. Despite just failing to beat AC Milan at Fratton Park, Pompey are already out after losing to Germany's Wolfsburg, who now travel to Italy knowing they and their opponents are already through.
Former Portsmouth coach Harry Redknapp's new side Spurs are, by contrast, very much still interested in a competition they won in 1972 and 1984 - though Premiership survival is the priority as they are just a point above the drop zone. Spurs lie second in Group D behind Italy's Udinese going into Thursday's game at home to Spartak Moscow but avoiding defeat will be enough to go through as the top three sides all advance.
Udinese, already through, are at Dutch outfit NEC Nijmegen, who still harbour lingering hopes along with Spartak. Mark Hughes' Manchester City are already through from Group A, which they top with seven points from three games, ahead of Thursday's trip to Spain to face Real Santander. But the heat is on at home, with City only ahead of third-bottom Sunderland on goal difference.
City will be without hamstring victim Benjani Mwaruwari for the match and the Zimbabwe striker is set to be out for several weeks, prompting Hughes to observe that despite the backing of their wealthy Abu Dhabi consortium owners and the signing of Brazilian star Robinho: "We're a little bit light on numbers at the moment."
Spurs also have an injury crisis and Redknapp may throw youngster Dean Parrett, just 17, into the fray for a senior debut given that Vedran Corluka and Roman Pavlyuchenko are both ineligible. John Bostock, 16, may also feature.
"Thursday is a big headache for us," Redknapp said. "We've got John Bostock and Dean Parrett, I'll throw them in and let's see what they can do."
Skipper Ledley King is set to be rested and Jonathan Woodgate is out with a back problem and Jermaine Jenas and Fraizer Campbell are also injured. Whereas England and Spain have a full house of four teams in the last 16 of the far more lucrative Champions League, France, whose only survivor is Lyon, are happy to have other sides still engaged in European competition at all.
With Marseille and Bordeaux dropping down into the UEFA Cup after failing to make the Champions League cut and with Saint Etienne already through from their UEFA Cup pool, Nancy and Paris Saint Germain will try to join them. Nancy need a draw Wednesday against Cologne of Germany and PSG need a win over Steve McClaren's second-placed FC Twente on Thursday.
In Group F, Hamburg, coached by former Spurs boss Martin Jol, host Aston Villa with both sides through alongside Ajax. All three are former European champions.