Premier League duo Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City put unbeaten records on the line in the third batch of Europa League group action today.
Spurs can even qualify for the knockout stages with three games to spare should they see off Sheriff in Moldova and the other Group K tie ends in a stalemate.
Wins in Russia last time out against Anzhi Makhachkala and Norwegians Tromso IL have left Andre Villas-Boas’ side coasting in a competition in which they reached the quarter-finals last season.
Villas-Boas, who lifted the 2011 Europa League trophy with Porto, told UEFA’s Web site: “This trophy means a lot to Tottenham — last year we embraced the competition in a serious way and we aim to do so again this season. Our objective is to progress.”
Speaking after the Anzhi victory he commented: “A win is what we wanted and gives us the opportunity in the next games against Sheriff to ensure qualification.”
Spurs striker Jermain Defoe is on the brink of rewriting club history as one more goal will swell his European catch to 24 and draw the England striker level with club record-holder Martin Chivers.
Swansea made it two out of two to lead Group A with a hard-fought 1-0 triumph over Saint Gallen in south Wales at the start of the month. Today they are back at the Liberty Stadium playing host to Russian visitors Kuban Krasnodar, facing a Premier League side for the first time.
Like Tottenham, Swansea, competing in Europe for the first time since the 1991-1992 season, are not only unbeaten, but they have yet to concede a goal.
Both Spurs and Swansea, who were applauded by the Valencia fans after stunning the Spaniards 3-0 in their opener, are in good heart after stylish wins on the home front at the weekend.
Britain’s third contenders, FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic, are out to build on their first ever home European win — a 3-1 triumph over NK Maribor of Slovenia — when they host Rubin Kazan.
The Russians represent tough opposition, firing in nine goals to top Group D, with Wigan two points behind in the all-important second spot which gains qualification to the next round.
Sevilla, winners of the predecessor to the Europa League, the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 UEFA Cups, are undefeated and lead Group H, a position of superiority they are out to confirm when they travel to Slovan Liberec of the Czech Republic.
Group E leaders ACF Fiorentina, buoyed by a 4-2 defeat of archrivals Juventus in Serie A on Sunday, are in Romania to tackle CS Pandurii Targu Jiu.
With Germany striker Mario Gomez sidelined, US-born Giuseppe Rossi, back after three operations in two years, has answered his club’s call, scoring a hat-trick against Juve.
His experience with Villarreal when he scored 11 goals on the way to helping his former Spanish club reach the semi-finals in 2010-2011 will prove invaluable, with the Italians taking seriously their Europa league engagement.
“This team is built to win,” Rossi said after the Juve win. “We have big hearts and great motivation. We have great players on the field and on the bench. Fiorentina can take on anybody.”