Four teams in search of wins

Four of the country’s five UEFA Cup representatives go into action tonight with the majority needing points to bolster their hopes of reaching the competition’s next stage, the Round of 32. Greece’s fifth UEFA Cup entry, Panathinaikos, a comfortable leader in Group B, does not play tonight. Of tonight’s four, Larissa, playing away against AZ Alkmaar, is in the worst position with zero points after two games in Group A. The Greek team’s Dutch opponent has one point from one game. The winners, runners-up and third-placed teams from each of this stage’s eight groups advance to the last 32, to be joined by the eight third-placed clubs from the Champions League. Home-and-away knockout encounters follow all the way to the final. AEK, the Greek Super League leader after nine rounds, would help its prospects of a place in the UEFA Cup’s next round with a win against Fiorentina in Group C. The Athens club, which drew its only game played so far, lies three points behind co-leaders Fiorentina and Villarreal, both of which have played one game more. A win for AEK would tie the Athens club and Fiorentina on four points – with AEK having a game in hand. Panionios, with one point from one game, hosts Turkey’s Galatasaray, which has lost both its encounters and lies last in Group H. Panionios coach Ewald Lienen will face one of his old coaches, Karl-Heinz Feldkamp. Lienen, a former midfielder, was a member of Feldkamp’s squad at DSC Arminia Bielefeld for a year until 1977. Panionios and Galatasaray have never met in the UEFA Cup. Aris, which opened its UEFA Cup group-stage campaign with a a victory to lie second, a point behind Bayern Munich in Group F, is hosted by Bolton. The English side has drawn two from two. The Thessaloniki team travels to the UK with a dismal, though very distant past record, on English soil. Interestingly, Aris lost its last two games in England with 5-1 scores, against Chelsea in the 1970-71 Cup Winners’ Cup, and Ipswich a decade later in the UEFA Cup. Both these victors went on to win their respective competitions.

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