Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, says the Premier League game against Hull on Monday is more important than tonight's Uefa Cup tie with Shakhtar Donetsk. That is how low the competition ranks among some managers - even at this last 32 stage.
Mark Hughes does not share Redknapp's views. It is the only route to silverware for his Manchester City side this season and the best chance of confirming a place in Europe again next term: a key factor in their ambitious plans to attract top players and challenge for the big prizes in the future. City visit the Danish side FC Copenhagen for the first leg and Hughes is conscious of improving the poor away record this season that has seen his side win just once in the league - at Sunderland as far back as August.
A 2-0 victory at Schalke in the Uefa Cup back in November was a rare highlight on their travels. "We discuss our failings away from home and we have not reached the same standards as we have at home," said Hughes. "Our best away performance came in Europe, in Germany, and a performance of that level will suffice [tonight]." Along with Wayne Bridge and Craig Bellamy, the goalkeeper Shay Given will make his European debut for City.
"Though some people view it as a poor relation to the Champions League it still takes some winning. I am sure all the teams left in it are as desperate to win as we are," he said. Redknapp is not and Spurs, lacking several first-team players, face a more difficult test in Ukraine against Shakhtar Donetsk. Ledley King, the Spurs captain, will not play after hamstring trouble. Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko are cup-tied so Darren Bent is likely to start in attack.
Fiorentina will be hoping Adrian Mutu can maintain his goalscoring form when they host Ajax. His second-half hat-trick allowed the Viola to come back from 3-0 down to draw with Genoa on Sunday and hold on to fourth place in Serie A. The Viola reached the semi-finals of the competition last term only to lose 4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw at Rangers. The Italians will fancy their chances against Ajax as they have not lost in four previous encounters against Dutch opposition.
Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli welcomes back midfielder Felipe Melo, who missed the draw with Genoa through suspension. The former England coach Steve McClaren will take his Twente Enschede side to Marseille. Udinese will be boosted by the return of striker Gaetano D'Agostino, when they play Lech Poznan. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org