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Barcelona, Juventus coast into group stage

Latest update : 2008-08-26

Europe giants Barcelona and Juventus cruised into the Champions League group stage without winning their games. Panathinaikos scored in stoppage time to give a win over Sparta Prague and secure their place in the group stage.

Former champions Juventus and Barcelona on Tuesday reached the lucrative Champions League group stage after safely negotiating away second legs in their final qualifiers.

Both the Italians and the Catalan club had cruised to respective 4-0 wins over Slovakia's Artmedia Petrzalka and Poland's Wisla Krakow on their own turf - but Barca were sluggish in going down 1-0 on the night to a goal from Brazilian Cleber early in the second half.

That sealed their passage 4-1 on aggregate while Juve, who were held 1-1 on the night, went through 5-1 on aggregate.

Juve found themselves a goal behind after just 14 minutes when Branislav Fodrek put Artmedia ahead with an overhead kick but Amauri cancelled that strike out with a header nine minutes later as Claudio Ranieri's side, European champions in 1985 and 1996, secured a first group berth in three seasons.

Former Chelsea boss Ranieri had to shuffle his pack as Juve were without defender and first leg goalscorer Giorgio Chiellini with a knee injury but veteran Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved returned to add his experience following suspension.

Italian Olympic standout Claudio Marchisio started while Ranieri left French veteran David Trezeguet alongside Alessandro Del Piero on the bench.

After Tuesday's less than impressive showing which included a booking for French striker Thierry Henry Barcelona will at least expect to welcome back Olympic gold medalist Lionel Messi for the group stages.

The Catalan club open their league campaign against Numancia this weekend.

On Wednesday, five-time European champions Liverpool and 2006 runners-up Arsenal will bid to book their berths with wins over Standard Liege at Anfield and the Emirates Stadium over FC Twente respectively.

The Gunners are as good as through after winning the away leg against Steve McClaren's Dutch outfit 2-0 but Liverpool have work to do after scraping a barely-deserved goalless draw in Belgium, where Liege missed a penalty.

Marseille, the only French side to lift the European Cup, should build on the 1-0 scoreline they brought home from Norway's Brann, while Steaua Bucharest, who denied Terry Venables' Barcelona in the 1986 final, should also complete the job after their 2-2 draw away to Turkey's Galatasaray.

Elsewhere, Germany's Schalke 04 will seek to cement their 1-0 advantage over Spain's Atletico Madrid while Ukraine's Dynamo Kiev, 4-1 up from the away leg, should secure regional bragging rights against Russia's Spartak Moscow.

In Tuesday's early UEFA Cup action, Scottish minnows Queen of the South bowed out to FC Nordsjaelland in their second qualifying round, going down 2-1 on the night to lose 4-2 on aggregate despite Bob Harris giving the visitors an early lead.

Martin Bernburg notched both goals for the Danes in the closing stages.

FK Borac of Serbia also went through after a 1-1 draw at Bulgaria's Lokomotiv Sofia secured a 2-1 aggregate win.

Date created : 2008-08-26