Eighty clubs look for spot in UEFA Cup group stage
LONDON, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Holders Sevilla and former winners Ajax should have little trouble securing their places in the UEFA Cup group phase when they play the second legs of their first round ties at home on Thursday.
There are 40 places up for grabs with the first-round winners being spread out among eight groups of five.
Sevilla are 2-1 up against Atromitos of Greece although they will have to put behind them their first defeat in 13 matches since April, having gone down 2-1 on Sunday at Atletico Madrid - who scored twice in the final five minutes against nine men. Four-times European Cup winners Ajax, who lifted the UEFA Cup in 1992, are a comfortable 5-2 up against IK Start of Norway after a victory that included two from Klaas Jan Huntelaar.
Their Dutch arch-rivals Feyenoord, who won the trophy for the second time in 2002, hold the upper hand on Lokomotiv Sofia after a 2-2 draw in Bulgaria where they came from two down with a Theo Lucius penalty and defender Serginho Greene's equaliser.
Parma, UEFA Cup winners in 1995 and 1999, would normally feel confident about a home match against modest Russian side Rubin Kazan after winning the away leg 1-0 with 19-year-old Daniele Dessena's late strike.
But Parma need quickly to heal the wounds of a 4-0 mauling by AS Roma at home in Serie A on Sunday, which the club's official Web site called "A match to forget".
Parma's Senegalese defender Ferdinand Coly said: "Rubin are coming at the right moment if we win...we must take it as a test to recover with a good performance and a victory."
Several other teams with 1-0 leads from the first leg should go through but will need to be careful about conceding potential killer away goals to the opposition.
Twice UEFA Cup winners Tottenham Hotspur have found goals hard to come by in the Premier League but came away from the Czech Republic with a 1-0 victory over Slavia Prague thanks to Jermaine Jenas's winner.
Spurs' London neighbours West Ham United, down 1-0 to Andrea Caracciolo's goal for Palermo, will be hoping their Argentines Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano come good in a Latin environment in Sicily after their early struggles in London.
Olympique Marseille, Champions League winners in 1993 and beaten by Parma in the 1999 UEFA Cup final in Moscow, visit Mlada Boleslav in the Czech Republiuc with a slender 1-0 lead thanks to Habib Bamogo's winning goal at the Velodrome.
Marseille's form may have dipped, however, with their first Ligue 1 defeat, 2-1 by struggling Nantes, at the weekend and inspirational midfielder Franck Ribery looking tired and out of shape.
Schalke, winners in 1997, take a 1-0 lead to another French club struggling for form, Nancy, who have scored only one goal in their last four matches.
Former European champions Red Star Belgrade are staring elimination in the face after going down 2-0 away to Slovan Liberec in the Czech Republic.
Hapoel Tel Aviv will be glad that the suspension on Israeli clubs playing at home because of fighting in the Middle East has been lifted since the first leg when they won 1-0 away to Chernomorets Odessa in Ukraine.
Maccabi Haifa are away to Litex Lovech after holding the Bulgarian side 1-1 in their "home" leg in the Netherlands.