Italian quartet target first Europa wins

BERNE - Italy's four representatives will be trying to notch up their first Europa League win of the season this week while holders Atletico Madrid are also attempting to get their campaign off the ground.

Juventus have the toughest task of the Italian quartet on Thursday when they visit big-spending Manchester City in Group A, having been held to a 3-3 home draw by Lech Poznan in their opening match two weeks ago.

Napoli, held at home by Utrecht in their first Group K outing, travel to former European champions Steaua Bucharest while Sampdoria, who drew at PSV Eindhoven, have an easier job at home to Hungarians Debrecen in Group I.

If all else fails, Palermo should be able to bank on three points at home to Swiss second division side Lausanne Sport.

The Sicilians were beaten at Sparta Prague in their opening Group F match but face a side who crashed to a demoralising 3-0 defeat at home to group favourites CSKA Moscow.

Juventus are having to make do with the Europa League for the second time in a row, having been knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage last season and missed out altogether this time.

Although the Europa League is often seen as the poor man of European club football, Juventus say they are concentrating on their trip to Manchester City rather than Sunday's league match against Serie A and European champions Inter Milan.

"We are not yet thinking about Sunday's match," defender Giorgio Chiellini told the club's website. "On Thursday... it will be a fascinating match, but also an important test. Besides, we care about Europa League."

BALLACK MISSING

City already have three points in the bag from their 2-0 win away to Austrian champions Salzburg, who visit Poznan on Thursday.

Atletico Madrid cannot afford to slip up when they host Bayer Leverkusen after a 1-0 defeat at Aris Salonika in their opening Group B match.

"We have the obligation to win in the Europa League," midfielder Simao Sabrosa told the sports daily Marca.

Bayer, missing injured Germany captain Michael Ballack, have been erratic in the Bundesliga but convincingly beat Rosenborg 4-0 in their first Europa outing.

Spain's clubs fared little better than Italy's two weeks ago, with Getafe - who visit Swiss side Young Boys - the only one of their four to win.

For Liverpool, the Europa League has so far been a welcome diversion from their domestic worries and manager Roy Hodgson may field Fernando Torres, Raul Meireles and Dirk Kuyt together for their visit to Utrecht in Group K.

"It's on my mind to play Torres, Raul Meireles and Dirk Kuyt on Thursday," said Hodgson, who last year led Fulham to the final.

"I think they're knitting together well. I thought Torres was much, much different (against Sunderland) to the one in the first couple of games.

"People wanted to see his best the moment he stepped back on to the field after the World Cup but I said he needed games, he needed time.

AEK Athens visit 2008 champions Zenit St Petersburg in Group G without a coach after Dusan Bajevic quit following Sunday's 3-1 league defeat to promoted Olympiakos Volos, ending his third stint at the Greek club.

Media reports said AEK fans threw seats towards Bajevic from the stand at the end of the game, though none hit him.

Porto's 100 percent record this season will be put to the test in Bulgaria, where they face CSKA Sofia.

The Portuguese have nine straight wins so far - six in the Super League, two in Europa League qualifying and their opening Europa League Group L game two weeks ago. 

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