Ligue 1 rivals eye UEFA Cup showdown

Fierce rivals Olympique Marseille and Paris St Germain put their Ligue 1 title scrap to one side on Thursday and knuckle down to UEFA Cup business with the carrot of an all-French semi-final.

Both clubs face opposition from Ukraine in quarter-final, first leg matches.

Marseille, beaten finalists in 2004, head to Eastern Europe for the first leg against Shakhtar Donetsk in terrific form, the southern French side in contention to end Olympique Lyon's seven-year stranglehold on the Ligue 1 title.

"Hopefully both (Paris and Marseille) will qualify," Marseille coach Eric Gerets was quoted as saying by his club's website. "If so, tension will be even higher than when we meet in the league."

Marseille, just a point behind Lyon, must first overcome a useful Shakhtar side, who along with Udinese are the only two quarter-finalists not to have lifted a major European trophy.

Marseille's Senegalese striker Mamadou Niang is back to his best after recovering from a broken toe but the French side will be without Brazilian striker Brandao for the tie.

The forward joined Marseille from Shakhtar in January and is not eligible to play against his former club as he has already competed in the Champions League for them this season.

PSG, also in the thick of Ligue 1 title contention in fifth place, four points behind Lyon, host another traditional Ukraine power in Dynamo Kiev.

The Parisian side are hampered by injury worries in defence. Left back Sylvain Armand is out with a sprained knee and centre backs Mamadou Sakho and Sammy Traore are doubtful.

Coach Paul Le Guen had to field trainees Tripy Makonda and Larrys Mabiala against Nice at the weekend and said his squad was too small to rest top players ahead of the Kiev tie.


Hamburg SV will look to establish a healthy first-leg advantage at home against poor travellers Manchester City.

City's away form has caused manager Mark Hughes plenty of concern. They have not won away in the Premier League since August but did win on the road during the UEFA Cup group stage at Hamburg's Bundesliga rivals Schalke in November.

Influential City midfielder Stephen Ireland is battling to recover from an ankle injury and defender Wayne Bridge suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury in the 2-0 weekend league defeat at Arsenal.

Hughes fears an injury picked up by former Hamburg player Vincent Kompany could also be a torn hamstring which would rule him out.

Hamburg, neck and neck with Wolfsburg at the top of the Bundesliga, should welcome back Mladen Petric who has recovered from a muscle injury that has kept him out for weeks.

The Croatian has five UEFA Cup goals to his name this season, two less than international and club team mate Ivica Olic. The remaining tie pits Werder Bremen against Udinese, with the German side at home in the first leg.

Werder have proved inconsistent in the Bundesliga and have saved their best form for the UEFA Cup, having knocked out tournament favourites AC Milan in the last 32.