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Top clubs well placed to progress in UEFA Cup

Hamburg - German, English and Spanish clubs are well placed to advance to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup when the return legs of the first knock-out stage take place on Thursday.



However, at least one of the total of 11 teams from the three countries will fall when Atletico Madrid take on Bolton Wanderers.

 Spain's Atletico are a goal down from the first leg of the Round of 32 matches last week after El-Hadji Diouf's goal at the Reebok Stadium in a stormy game in which Atletico's Sergio Aguero was sent off for spitting.

 The English side have meanwhile been angered after the squad's itinerary for the trip to Madrid, including its flight number, hotel and training schedule, was posted on Atletico's website.

 "This is very strange behaviour for a club of Atletico's size and status," Bolton manager Gary Megson said.

 "It obviously raises serious security concerns regarding Bolton Wanderers players and staff ahead of this game."

   Atletico had an injury doubt over Portuguese winger Simao who damaged his left thigh muscle in the first leg, but will still fancy their chances of overcoming a side struggling near the bottom of the Premier League.

 England's two other hopes, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton, are in a much better position after away wins in the first leg.

 Two-time winners Tottenham, who defeated Czech side Slavia Prague 2-1 and are looking to become the fourth three-time champions after Liverpool, Inter Milan and Juventus, should advance.

 Manager Juande Ramos is set to recall goalkeeper Paul Robinson after Radek Cerny blundered in the first leg to allow Slavia back into a tie when Spurs were leading 2-0.

 Everton, 2-0 winners at Brann Bergen, must also be expected to finish the job against the Norwegians.

 Germany will have five teams in the last 16 if all goes well.

 League leaders Bayern Munich could still be without midfielder Franck Ribery (thigh injury) but are favourites to go through against Aberdeen following a 2-2 draw in Scotland.

 Aberdeen are still plagued by injuries, but manager Jimmy Calderwood remained positive despite the continued absence of defender Richard Byrne, midfielders Jackie McNamara and Derek Young, plus striker James Smith.

 "We have nothing to lose," he said. "They have two goals and are massive favourites. If we got a result it would be historic. We have to win the game or get a high-scoring draw, but we can always dream."

   Werder Bremen travel to Portuguese side Braga holding a 3-0 lead, but will be without Brazilian playmaker Diego or Aaron Hunt (both groin strains), who had been designated to replace him.

 SV Hamburg are also confident of advancing over FC Zurich after a 3-1 win in Switzerland, while Bayer Leverkusen take on Turkish side Galatasaray following a goalless draw in Istanbul.

 Only Nuremberg have a deficit to make up following a 1-0 loss at Benfica, but new coach Thomas van Heesen says his team still has every chance.

 "We played well in Lisbon, The players themselves said it was their best match for weeks," he said.

 None of Spain's three-team contingent was able to win their first-leg matches last week, but all three have the benefit of home ties.

 Like Atletico, Villareal must overcome a 1-0 loss when they entertain Zenit St Petersburg, while Getafe take on AEK Athens following a 1-1 draw in Greece.

 Olympique Marseille travel to Spartak Moscow holding a 3-0 first-leg lead, while the other French side in the competition, Girondins Bordeaux, take on Anderlecht who were 2-1 winners at home.

 Italy's remaining hope Fiorentina hold a 1-0 lead from the away leg at Norway's Rosenborg Trondheim, while PSV Eindhoven - the only Dutch side left in European competition - travel to Swedish side Helsingborgs with a 2-0 lead.

 Meanwhile, Portugal's Sporting Lisbon defend a 2-0 lead at Swiss side Basel while Scotland's Glasgow Rangers face a tough survival challenge at Panathinaikos after the sides finished goalless in Glasgow.

By Barry Whelan, dpa


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