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Shakhtar, Sporting, Salzburg eye Europa progress

5 November 2009 09:55

PARIS (AFP) - Sporting Lisbon, Red Bull Salzburg and defending champions Shakhtar Donetsk can all book their places in the Europa League knockout phase with victories on Thursday.

The trio are the only sides to have won all three of their group stage matches in the competition to date and now stand on the brink of the last 32.

Shakhtar, 2-1 victors over Werder Bremen in last season's final, travel to Toulouse in Group J, having beaten the French side 4-0 when they last met two weeks ago.

Group D leaders Sporting, who are struggling in their domestic league, host Latvian outfit FK Ventspils at the Jose Alvalade stadium while Austrian champions Salzburg will chase a fourth straight victory at Group G bottom side Levski Sofia.

Salzburg will be assured of a place in the top two if they win and Lazio defeat Villarreal in the group's other match.

Lazio won 2-1 when the teams last met in Rome after a last-minute goal from Tomasso Rocchi and the Spanish side's experienced midfielder Robert Pires says his team need to become more clinical if they are to progress.

"We have three games left. If we want to stay in the competition, we have to win all three," said the former French international, whose side trail Salzburg by six points in Group G.

"If we beat Lazio, it will give us the confidence to start winning again in the future."

After a poor start to the season, Villarreal have bounced back to win their last two domestic league games - including a 5-0 demolition of Tenerife on Sunday - and Pires feels they have turned a corner.

"We've had bad luck this year in both the championship and Europa League because we've played well but just haven't got the results," he added.

"We haven't changed anything. We have the same players and the same training programme, but when you are on a bad run, it's difficult to escape. I think we have the quality to get out of this situation."

Lazio's city rivals Roma were also grateful to an injury-time goal in their last match after defender Marco Andreolli's late strike earned them a 1-1 draw at Fulham, whom they welcome to the Stadio Olimpico in Group E.

Revenge will be on the agenda across Europe, with Thursday's matches the reverse fixtures of the last games in the competition.

Everton are another high-profile side with scores to settle, having been out-classed 5-0 by Group I rivals Benfica in their last outing.

But the Premier League side welcome the Portuguese heavyweights to Goodison Park knowing that victory will enable them to return to the top of the group.

"It's not so much about revenge, but to prove a point that we're still the strongest team in the group and hopefully the strongest team in the competition," said Everton's 18-year-old midfielder Jack Rodwell, whose side were missing 11 senior players in Lisbon.

"With more players coming back, I think we'll finish strong. We've had a lot of players missing all season but always managed to do well, so we're not going to make excuses - but yes, we've got a few good players coming back and hopefully that will help us further on down the line in the competition."

A number of teams are already in the last-chance saloon, with Scottish giants Celtic needing to secure their first ever win on German soil at Hamburg to remain in with a chance of making the next round.

The Glasgow outfit will be without injured Polish international goalkeeper Artur Boruc, who has a knee injury, and will be eliminated if they lose and Hapoel Tel-Aviv win at Rapid Vienna in the other Group C game.

Hamburg and Hapoel will be within touching distance of the next round if they both win, while Ajax and Anderlecht will be in a similar position in Group A if they defeat Dinamo Zagreb and FC Timisoara respectively.

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Info

Competition
UEFA Europa League
Date
5 November 2009
Kick-off
21:05
Half-time
0 - 0
Full-time
0 - 2
Venue
Stadium Municipal (Toulouse)
Attendance
12046

Goals

0 - 1
0 - 2
64' O. Gai

Lineups

# Player Bookings
30
3
23
13
12 48'
14 45'
8
20 72'
5
19
11
Coach: A. Casanova
# Player Bookings
30
33
5
26 34'
44
3
22
7
8
19 64'
17 50'
Coach: M. Lucescu

Substitutes

# Player Bookings
25
22
# Player Bookings
14
18
21

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