Cup holders Sevilla face stern test in Ukraine

LONDON: UEFA Cup holders Sevilla will be without injured defender David Castedo and midfielders Jesus Navas and Renato when they attempt to survive a tough challenge from Shakhtar Donetsk in the second-leg of their second knockout round tie tomorrow. 

Sevilla’s grip on the trophy was prised open last week when Shakhtar, one of three former Champions League contenders still in the competition, drew 2-2 in Spain last week. 

That was one of seven of the eight first-leg matches to either end in a draw or a single-goal victory and although no one team has a firm foot in the last eight, Werder Bremen and Tottenham Hotspur, who both won away from home, should now advance. 

An intriguing game is in prospect in Ukraine where Sevilla’s reign as champions will only continue with a victory or a high scoring draw. 

In a first-leg match of three penalties, Sevilla were only saved from a crushing home defeat by Enzo Maresca’s 88th minute equaliser from the spot, which earned the wrath of Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu. 

“The referee awarded Sevilla a last-minute penalty under the influence of the crowd. Let us hope the same atmosphere will be created in Donetsk,” he said in the run-up to the match. 

Lucescu rested six key players in Shakhtar’s 1-0 win over Metalist Kharkiv in the league on Sunday, but will be without Croatian midfielder Darijo Srna and Brazilian striker Brandao tomorrow as both are suspended. 

On the plus side, Polish international Mariusz Lewandowski and Ukrainian defender Olexander Kucher return after serving their suspensions. 

Werder Bremen, who also dropped down from the Champions League, scored a potentially decisive 1-0 win at Celta Vigo last week and are now favourites to make the quarter-finals.  

Werder drew 1-1 at Bayern Munich on Sunday to stay second in the race for the German title, but were without Miroslav Klose, who missed the game in Munich with a sore back and is doubtful for today. 

Midfielder Daniel Jensen and forward Hugo Almeida, who scored the late winner at Vigo, could also miss out after both had to be substituted on Sunday with dead legs. 

Bayer Leverkusen, Germany’s other representatives, will have to improve on their first-leg performance when they host Racing Lens, with the French side 2-1 up from the first-leg. 

Leverkusen will be without first-leg scorer Karim Haggui, who was later sent off and is suspended. They expect to have 32-year-old midfielder Carsten Ramelow back after a knee problem kept him out of Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Hamburg. 

Benfica, who also failed to advance in the Champions League, lost 2-1 in the first-leg against Paris St Germain, who are facing relegation from the top flight in France after just six league wins all season. 

Benfica will be without Brazilian defender Luisao after he failed to recover from a knee injury. 

While Benfica look to have a good chance of surviving the tie, the same looks unlikely for Braga, who travel to Tottenham Hotspur after losing the first-leg 3-2 at home. 

Tottenham, in a rich vein of scoring form with 20 goals in their last six matches, will be without Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov, who has a groin injury, but looked too strong for the Portuguese side last week and could well win their eighth successive UEFA Cup match of the season. 

If they do go through to the last eight, they should be joined by English rivals Newcastle, who beat AZ Alkmaar 4-2 at home last week. 

The Dutch club have never lost at home in 28 years of European competition and Newcastle look set for a nervy night before probably sealing a place in Friday’s quarter-final draw. 

This season’s final is at Hampden Park, Glasgow, on May 16. – Reuters 

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