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Bayern hot favourites in UEFA quarter finals

Latest update : 2008-04-03

The UEFA Cup quarter finals will see the competition's favourites Bayern Munich take on Spanish newcomer Getafe, while Fiorentina receive Dutch side PSV Eindhoven. Since the start of the cup, Bayern Munich has set a goal average of 2.8.

German powerhouses Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen will look to record comfortable first leg leads in their UEFA Cup quarter-finals on Thursday and all but set up a tantalising semi-final between themselves.

Bundesliga leaders Bayern host Spanish side Getafe while Bayer are at home to Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg - the other two ties see Britain's sole remaining representative Rangers at home to Portuguese outfit Sporting Lisbon while Fiorentina receive Dutch side PSV Eindhoven.

Bayern last won this trophy in the 1995/96 season and it is one that has eluded the grasp of their master coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who would love to round off his time in charge - he is leaving to take over the Swiss national side at the end of this campaign - by landing it.

Getafe, though, might only be 12th in their championship but have punched above their weight this term in the UEFA Cup, eliminating Portuguese giants Benfica in the last round.

However, they travel to Germany with a bad omen hovering over them as coach Michael Laudrup has never won there even during his stellar playing career and the former Danish playmaker is far from confident that record is going to end.

"We are talking about the best team in the tournament and the best players," he told UEFA.com.

Laudrup will be praying that Bayern are still a little leg weary after their tired performance last Saturday saw them held 1-1 by strugglers Nuremberg, which Hitzfeld claimed was just a bad day at the office but added he would be holding frank discussions with the players.

Indeed Bayern's rugged Argentinian international defender Martin Demichelis is convinced that Bayern will face a tough battle with their opponents.

"I rate Getafe as one of the best teams still in the competition," he told the club's website.

"They will be totally motivated and are not coming here for a kickabout. They are as keen to make the semi-finals," added Demichelis, who has had a bet with compatriot and Getafe goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri over the outcome.

Bayer, winners of this tournament in 1988, can only really think of the UEFA Cup as the sole chance of silverware this term as they are 10 points behind Bayern in the title race, having failed to take advantage of Bayern's draw last weekend by losing 2-0 at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

However, they face tough opposition in Zenit, coached by two-time former Dutch national handler Dick Advocaat, and Bayer's Swiss midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta admitted they would have to up their game to take a lead to Russia.

"We have to produce the right response (from the Eintracht defeat) against Zenit," he said.

Bayer coach Michael Skibbe confessed that he would have preferred to have played the first leg in Russia, especially as Zenit showed what a force they are in their lair by overturning a 3-1 deficit from the first leg in Marseille by beating the French side 2-0 in St Petersburg to win on the away goal rule.

They will have to be especially wary of Zenit frontman Pavel Pogrebnyak, who has scored four times in the last four UEFA Cup matches to take his total to seven for the competition this term.

Rangers will be looking to add the UEFA Cup to their sole European title win, the now defunct Cup Winners Cup in 1972, by establishing a comfortable advantage to take to Lisbon next week against a side they beat on their way to the Cup Winners Cup.

Sporting, however, are determined to gain consolation for the fact they have failed to mount a strong challenge for the title with FC Porto, and trail them by 20 points with just six matches remaining.

Rangers should welcome back tough-tackling midfielder Brahim Hemdani, who has had more of an impact on their European challenge this term than on the domestic title race, and he will have to be at his sharpest to deny Sporting's Brazilian sharpshooter Liedson, who scored twice at the weekend in league action.

Fiorentina will also be hoping to make home advantage count against PSV, who are five points ahead of Ajax in the title race with three matches remaining, but face a formidable obstacle in the Dutch side's 'keeper Gomes, who once again proved his credentials in the 0-0 draw with NEC Breda last weekend.

"He is a great goalkeeper, someone who does that little bit special," said PSV coach Sef Vergoossen.


UEFA Cup quarter-finals, 1st leg

Thursday

Bayer Leverkusen (GER) v Zenit Saint-Petersburg (RUS)

Rangers (SCO) v Sporting Lisbon (POR)

Bayern Munich (GER) v Getafe (ESP)

Fiorentina (ITA) v PSV Eindhoven (NED)

Date created : 2008-04-03

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