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Eyeing the UEFA Cup’s last 32

At least two Greek clubs could be assured of their berths in the next round of the UEFA Cup after this week’s group matches. Panathinaikos is already guaranteed a place in the next round going into tonight’s home match against Lokomotiv Moscow in Group B, while Aris can advance tomorrow with a win over Portugal’s Braga in Group F. Panathinaikos won its opening two matches, and is now concentrating on finishing first in Group B so that it isn’t drawn against any of the eight teams which drop into the next round after being eliminated from the Champions League. «Victory against Lokomotiv is vital in order to make things easier in the competition,» midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz said. Coach Jose Peseiro will be without playmaker Giorgos Karagounis because of a virus and defender Yiannis Goumas because of injury. Striker Vangelis Mantzios is also nursing a thigh injury after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Xanthi and could be replaced by Dimitris Papadopoulos or Dame Ndoye. The 1971 European Cup runner-up will secure top spot if it beats Lokomotiv and second-place Atletico Madrid, two points off the lead with four, fails to win at FC Copenhagen. Greece, the European champion at international level, has a total of five sides in the group stage, more than any other country, but Larissa, Panionios and AEK are struggling. Aris, however, is second to four-time European champion Bayern Munich in Group F ahead of its game against Braga in Portugal tomorrow. Aris has beaten former European champion Red Star Belgrade and drew 1-1 at Bolton last week. Larissa has no chance of advancing since it is last and without a point in Group A, from which Everton and Zenit St Petersburg can advance if they draw tonight and Nuremberg does not beat AZ Alkmaar in the other match. Panionios needs a victory at Austria Vienna to keep alive its chances of qualifying from Group H. Group H leader Helsingborg made sure of its place last week and plays its last match tomorrow at 1996 runner-up Bordeaux, which could qualify even if it loses. The top three teams from each of the UEFA Cup competition’s eight groups advance to the next stage. They will be joined by all third-placed sides from the Champions League’s eight groups for home-and-away knockout play all the way to the UEFA Cup final. (AP)