UEFA Cup group play starts

Four of Greece’s five qualifiers for UEFA Cup group competition begin their quests tonight. AEK, the Greek Super League’s front-runner with five wins from as many games, is hosted by Swedish club Elfsborg in Group C. The Athens club will be without Rivaldo and Akis Zikos, both recovering from slight injuries. With one round remaining in the Swedish league, Elfsborg lies fifth, nine points behind co-leaders Gothenburg and Djurgarden. On its previous visit to Sweden, back in the 1999-2000 season, AEK was deprived of a Champions League group place by AIK Solna, a 1-0 winner at home following a scoreless draw in Athens. Encouraged by a 2-0 win at Veria last weekend for a rise to third place in the Super League, five points behind leader AEK, Panathinaikos hosts Scottish club Aberdeen early tonight. The Group B game will be the first encounter between the two sides in European competition. No Scottish club has won a game in Greece in seven previous encounters between sides from the two countries, but Panathinaikos striker Dimitris Papadopoulos appeared to disregard this past record in his pre-match comments. «All sides are tough, especially Scottish and English clubs, because they play with speed and power. The Scottish national team is doing very well. This will be a difficult match for us,» Papadopoulos said about Aberdeen, playing its 100th game in UEFA Cup competition tonight. Larissa is hosted by Everton in a Group A fixture and Panionios is greeted by Sweden’s Helsingborg in Group H. Drawn in Group F, Greece’s other UEFA Cup contestant Aris has a bye.