ibnlive » Sports

Nov 22, 2006 at 01:31pm IST

British clubs thriving in UEFA Cup

London: British clubs are thriving in the UEFA Cup.

Four of the eight group leaders are British - Rangers, Blackburn, Tottenham and Newcastle. All four have won their first two group games, and a victory on Thursday would put all of them into the knockout round.

The UEFA Cup has been a relief for Rangers manager Paul LeGuen, whose club has slipped 15 points behind rival Celtic in the Scottish Premier League.

GOAL: Rangers Charlie Adam celebrates scoring against Maccabi Haifa during their UEFA Cup match.

Rangers play at Auxerre, and even a draw would put the Scots into the next round.

The top three teams in each of the eight groups advance to the next round along with the eight third-place teams from the Champions League.

Rangers lost to Auxerre in the UEFA Cup two seasons ago. Asked if Rangers would be trying to get even, forward Nacho Novo replied: "Obviously, yes."

"We want to win against every team in the UEFA Cup, and I think this is a good chance to win and pass through to the next round."

Rangers may have an edge against Auxerre - LeGuen and assistant Yves Colleu are both French.

"We know the type of football, but it's not enough to win the game," Colleu said.

"It's always the same to win a game. You need commitment, you need to play like a team, you need to play for each other and to be strong together."

In the other three games involving British clubs, it's: Feyenoord vs Blackburn; Bayer Leverkusen vs Tottenham; and Newcastle vs Celta.

Also Thursday, it's: Maccabi Haifa vs Partizan Belgrade; FC Brugge vs Dynamo Bucharest; Slovan Liberec vs Grasshoppers; Sevilla vs Braga; Parma vs SC Heerenveen; OB Odense vs Lens; FC Basel vs Nancy; Sparta Prague vs Ajax; Espanyol vs Zuite Waregem; Rapid Bucharest vs Mlada Boleslav; Paris Saint-Germain vs Hapoel Tel Aviv; and Fenerbahce vs Palermo.

Blackburn, in 15th place in the Premier League, could have problems at Feyenoord. The Dutch club has won its last five league games and is coming off a 3-2 victory over AZ Alkmaar.

"It would be great if this results motivates us," Feyenoord coach Erwin Koeman said.

Blackburn manager Mark Hughes is expected to name a Dutchman to captain his team against Feyenoord - defender Andre Ooijer.

"Andre has a lot of insight into the game and a lot of knowledge, and that experience will be vital for us," Hughes said.

Tottenham striker Dimitar Berbatov will be returning to Bayer Leverkusen. The Bulgarian played last season at Leverkusen and was the Bundesliga's No 2 scorer.

Newcastle, which scrambled to a 1-1 draw on Saturday at Arsenal, may have a tough time with Celta in the game at St James' Park.

Celta has been strong away from home lately, including victories at Real Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna.

"But now we have to think about England and not rest on our laurels," midfielder Jonathan Aspas said.