Thu, Nov 05, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Shakhtar, Sporting, Salzburg eye Europa League progress

AFP , PARIS

Sporting Lisbon, Red Bull Salzburg and defending champions Shakhtar Donetsk can all book their places in the Europa League knockout phase with victories today.

The trio are the only sides to have won all three of their group stage matches in the competition to date and now stand on the brink of the last 32.

Shakhtar, 2-1 victors over Werder Bremen in last season’s final, travel to Toulouse in Group J, having beaten the French side 4-0 when they last met two weeks ago.

Group D leaders Sporting, who are struggling in their domestic league, host Latvian outfit FK Ventspils at the Jose Alvalade stadium while Austrian champions Salzburg will chase a fourth straight victory at Group G bottom side Levski Sofia.

Salzburg will be assured of a place in the top two if they win and Lazio defeat Villarreal in the group’s other match.

Lazio won 2-1 when the teams last met in Rome after a late goal from Tomasso Rocchi and the Spanish side’s experienced midfielder Robert Pires says his team need to become more clinical if they are to progress.

“We have three games left. If we want to stay in the competition, we have to win all three,” said the former French international, whose side trail Salzburg by six points in Group G.

“If we beat Lazio, it will give us the confidence to start winning again in the future,” he said.

After a poor start to the season, Villarreal have bounced back to win their last two domestic league games and Pires feels they have turned a corner.

“We’ve had bad luck this year in both the championship and Europa League because we’ve played well but just haven’t got the results,” he said.

“We haven’t changed anything. We have the same players and the same training program, but when you are on a bad run, it’s difficult to escape. I think we have the quality to get out of this situation,” Pires said.

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