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By ESPN Staff

Juventus on the brink of successful Euro return

BELGRADE, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Juventus end a two-year European exile due to Italy's match-fixing scandal when they face Artmedia Bratislava in the first leg of the Champions League third qualifying round in Turin on Wednesday.

Having worked their way back from Italy's second division, where they were demoted in 2006 for their part in the scandal, Juventus are looking for a fresh start in Europe's premier club competition which they won in 1985 and 1996.

Fellow Italians Fiorentina, who were also embroiled in the scandal, host Slavia Prague in Florence in the only match on Tuesday with the other 15 the following night.

With 16 places still available in the lucrative 32-team group stage, former winners Liverpool, Barcelona and Olympique Marseille will start as favourites to go through.

Liverpool are away to Belgian champions Standard Liege while Marseille, who kicked off their French Ligue 1 campaign with a 4-4 draw at Stade Rennes on Saturday, start as firm favourites against Norwegians Brann Bergen.

Barcelona, winners in 2006, have a fairly straightforward job of getting past Polish champions Wisla Krakow with new coach Pep Guardiola eager to prove there is life at the Nou Camp after Ronaldinho's close-season transfer to AC Milan.

Although Argentina's Lionel Messi is away playing for his country in the Olympic soccer tournament in Beijing, Guardiola will expect his side to fire on all cylinders.

Barca's Spanish Primera Liga rivals Atletico Madrid have the tougher task of eliminating Germany's Schalke 04 in the only heavyweight duel of the final qualifying round.

The cauldron of Atletico's Vicente Calderon stadium, the venue of the return leg in two weeks' time, may give the nine-times Spanish champions the edge over the 1997 UEFA Cup winners.

Arsenal, who came closest to winning the title when they reached the 2006 final against Barcelona, visit Dutch side Twente Enschede, who are coached by former England manager Steve McClaren.

A youthful Arsenal will be buoyed by winning the weekend's Amsterdam tournament after overturning a 2-0 deficit against hosts Ajax for a 3-2 victory and then drawing 1-1 with Sevilla.

But they also need to be wary of Twente, hungry for European success under McClaren after they narrowly avoided going into administration in 2003.

Turkey's Fenerbahce hope to at least emulate last season's success of reaching the last eight after luring Spain's Euro 2008 striker Daniel Guiza and coach Luis Aragones, who steered the Spaniards to the European Championship title in June.

They face Serbian champions Partizan Belgrade who have been hit hard by injuries, suspensions and a row with Olympic national team coach Miroslav Djukic after he refused to release two of their players for the tie.


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