Heavyweights close in on Europa qualification
Manchester City and holders Atletico Madrid are among the sides seeking to wrap up qualification to the last 32 when the UEFA Europa League resumes on Wednesday.
Five teams are already assured of their passage from the group stage - Zenit St Petersburg, Stuttgart, CSKA Moscow, BATE Borisov, and FC Porto. The first two from each group qualifies with the teams that finish third in their respective UEFA Champions League groups entering the fray in February for a competition which climaxes in an 18 May final in Dublin's revamped Lansdowne Road stadium.
The Champions League octet will definitely include defending Scottish Premier League champions Rangers, Spartak Moscow and FC Twente from the Netherlands. Manchester City have picked up seven points from their first four matches to leave them second on goal difference to highflying Polish outfit Lech Poznan, who defeated Roberto Mancini's men 3-1 last time out, in Group A.
The Poles host Juventus, in third on four points, with City welcoming strugglers Salzburg from Austria. Spanish 2010 FIFA World Cup™ winner David Silva is optimistic City can clinch a knockout berth. "We're at home, so it's down to us to win the game on our own turf. We've got to be positive, as three points on Wednesday should see us get out of the group," he told the club's official website.
He added: "But I think we're doing OK so far. If it was not for the bad luck we encountered in the last game, we would probably be on top of the group. We're not far away, and it's in our hands to do well."
Mancini too is hopeful his cluster of millionaires can dust off Saturday's 1-1 draw against comparative Premier League paupers Stoke with victory against Salzburg, who are without a win in their last six European games, a run that includes a 2-0 loss to City in their Group A opener.
The Italian commented: "If we win against Salzburg, we will go through to the next stage. It is important we now focus on winning that match. We must pay more attention when we play and concentrate and though this is a difficult period for us, if we stick together and work hard we can get back on track quickly."
City will go through with a game to spare if they take all three points at the City of Manchester stadium with Lech if the Poles beat Juventus in Poznan.
Champions under pressure
In Group B Atletico are placed second, one point shy of Bayer Leverkusen. The German tabletoppers can make it if they secure all three points from their encounter with Norwegians Rosenborg, while Atletico will join them if they get a similarly positive result against Greek visitors Aris. On paper Aris, are up against it with Atletico unbeaten in their last 16 UEFA Cup/Europa Cup home ties, a run stretching back to the 1998/99 season.
Elsewhere on Wednesday Sporting Lisbon require only a draw against French side Lille, in second, four points adrift, to make it out of Group C as leaders.
Zenit St Petersburg, with a maximum 12 points, have sailed into the last 32 as winners of Group G, but any of the three teams in their wake - Hajduk Split, AEK Athens and Anderlecht, are still in the running for second place with only one point splitting the trio.
Like 2008 UEFA Cup titleholders Zenit, Group H winners Stuttgart have not put a foot leaving Young Boys, beaten by Tottenham in the Champions League qualifying round, Getafe and Odense to scrap it out for the runners-up spot.
In Genoa, Group I leaders PSV Eindhoven face Sampdoria needing one point to retain their interest in Europe's second tier club competition.