Reds riding high ahead of Portugal trip
Kenny Dalglish will be looking to Liverpool to carry their Premier League revival into Europe as the Merseysiders travel to Portuguese side Sporting Braga on Thursday for a UEFA Europa League last-16, first-leg tie.
The three-time UEFA Cup winners are riding high after a 3-1 success over Manchester United on Sunday which Dalglish is hoping will spark a successful end to the season despite a potentially tricky tie in Portugal. Dirk Kuyt's 86th-minute header earned Liverpool a place in the last 16 following a narrow 1-0 win over Sparta Prague two weeks ago, and the Dutch winger was again on target when his hat-trick put United to the sword in convincing fashion at Anfield.
Kuyt expressed his hope that the success would spark a winning streak for Liverpool. "We want to win every game, we want to go on a run," he said. "We have shown that we can compete with the best, but competing with the best is not enough to win things."
The Portuguese side, who overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit with a 2-0 win at home to Lech Poznan of Poland in the last round, are themselves brimming with confidence after bouncing back from a recent slump in form to beat Benfica 2-1 at the weekend. Braga have also achieved five victories in six European home fixtures this season after making their debut in the UEFA Champions League.
Brits on the road
All three British clubs in action are on the road for the first leg tie which sees six former UEFA Cup winners in action. The return leg takes place on 17 March. Rangers, beaten finalists in 2008, travel to PSV Eindhoven as Manchester City visit the Ukraine to play a Dynamo Kiev side who fired eight goals past Besiktas in the last round. "They're a strong team that's hard to beat, especially at home," said City forward David Silva.
Rangers captain David Weir, meanwhile, said he was looking forward to escaping the "madness" of Glasgow as the Scottish champions travel to the Netherlands on the back of a 1-0 win over St Mirren. The victory allowed Rangers to return to winning ways following their explosive Scottish Cup exit against city rivals Celtic.
And although Walter Smith's men may be struggling with injuries Weir insisted they were looking forward to a change of scenery. "Everybody looks forward to those games," said the veteran defender. "They are nice, they freshen things up and give you a wee lift. You get a wee bit of energy from those games to be honest. It's nice to go and play different teams in different stadiums and get away from the madness that is Glasgow."
PSV Eindhoven have lost three of their four previous meetings with Rangers but are on a nine-game unbeaten run in the Europa League.
Both other Dutch teams in action host Russian sides with Spartak Moscow travelling to Ajax and 2008 UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg's visiting FC Twente. The third Russian club CSKA Moscow host Portuguese league leaders FC Porto for a clash between two recent UEFA Cup holders - CSKA won in 2005 and Porto in 2003.
Paris Saint Germain face a tough task against two-time European champions Benfica, while the only remaining Spanish team Villarreal travel to Germany to play Bayer Leverkusen.