Three French clubs, Marseille, Paris and St Etienne, are bidding for a place in the quarter-finals. The Parisians welcome Portugal's Braga, Marseille Dutch Ajax and St Etienne travel to giant-slayers Bremen.
AFP - Paris St-Germain lead the French charge in the UEFA Cup on Thursday night, one of 16 teams left in the competition who will all feel that the trophy is within their grasp after the shocks of the previous round.
Pre-tournament favourites AC Milan were sent packing by Werder Bremen, while Italian big guns Fiorentina, Spanish heavyweights Valencia and English Premier League representatives Tottenham and Aston Villa all fell by the wayside.
PSG booked their place in the round of 16 with a convincing 5-1 aggregate victory over Germans Wolfsburg, while fellow Ligue 1 sides Marseille and St Etienne are also bidding for a place in the quarter-finals.
The Parisians welcome Portugal's Braga to the Parc des Princes on Thursday evening, buoyed by a resurgence in domestic form that has seen them close to within one point of league leaders Lyon.
"The league and UEFA Cup double isn't a dream but a wish," Brazilian defender Ceara said.
"I ask God that we can go as far as possible in these two competitions. But it will require a huge effort."
Marseille host Dutch giants Ajax after seeing off FC Twente in a keenly contested tie that took 210 minutes and 13 penalties to separate the sides.
St Etienne, meanwhile, produced one of the surprise results of the last round by knocking out Greek champions Olympiakos 5-2 on aggregate.
They travel to giant-slayers Bremen and will hope their European form continues to bely the fact that they are only one place above the Ligue 1 relegation zone.
If this season's UEFA Cup has been memorable for France it has so far been a tournament to forget for England.
Manchester City are the sole surviving Premier League team in the competition after Tottenham and Aston Villa saw weakened sides tamely disposed of in the round of 32, while Everton and Portsmouth were eliminated before the knockout phase.
City take on Danish side Aab Aalborg, with coach Mark Hughes knowing the UEFA Cup may represent his best chance of placating owners the Abu Dhabi United Group, who have yet to see any real return on the investment they have ploughed into the club since their big-money takeover in September.
"The longer we stay in Europe, the more our name is lingering around, and the more people will think that City are actually quite a decent side," captain Richard Dunne said.
"We want this UEFA Cup run to continue. It's in our hands, and we feel with the draw that we've got a chance of progressing."
In the night's other matches, holders Zenit St Petersburg travel to Italy to face Udinese, while CSKA Moscow host Shakhtar Donetsk of the Ukraine.
Dynamo Kiev and FC Metalist Kharkiv will do battle for Ukrainian bragging rights in Kiev, while Turkish champions Galatasaray visit German side Hamburg.
Round of 16 first-leg fixtures, Thursday
CSKA Moscow (RUS) v Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR)
Dynamo Kiev (UKR) v FC Metalist Kharkiv (UKR)
Hamburg (GER) v Galatasaray (TUR)
Manchester City (ENG) v AaB Aalborg (DEN)
Marseille (FRA) v Ajax (NED)
Paris St-Germain (FRA) v Braga (POR)
Udinese (ITA) v Zenit St Petersburg (RUS)
Werder Bremen (GER) v St Etienne (FRA)
Date created : 2009-03-12