x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Boloni's men looking to advance to last 32

Standard Liege require a draw to guarantee safe passage to the next round of the Uefa Cup when they face Sampdoria in Group C.

Laszlo Boloni, the former Al Jazira coach, has assembled a strong Standard Liege side this season.
Laszlo Boloni, the former Al Jazira coach, has assembled a strong Standard Liege side this season.

LIEGE // Standard Liege require a draw to guarantee safe passage to the next round of the Uefa Cup when they face Sampdoria in Group C. Standard are on a great run in Uefa's second-tier cup competition, beating Sevilla and Partizan Belgrade to take a two-point lead over Sampdoria and VfB Stuttgart in one of the toughest of the eight groups. With three of the five clubs advancing from each group, a draw would be enough for Laszlo Boloni's men to secure passage to the knockout phase with still two games to play.

A win for Sampdoria would mean they would be certain to advance. Both will be looking to do well in Europe to deflect attention from recent lacklustre league results. Standard have dropped to third place in the Belgian league after a string of indifferent results, including a goalless draw at lowly KV Mechelen over the weekend. However, Standard's form in Europe has been far better. They only just missed out on qualification for the Champions League, losing to Liverpool in extra time in the qualifiers.

Then they defeated Everton to reach the Uefa Cup group stage. Standard have relied on a host of young players this season, including the playmaker Steven Defour, 20, and the midfielder Axel Witsel, 19, who are likely to be prime targets during the winter transfer season. "We have to remain realistic," said the striker Igor De Camargo. "This team has quality but we have to think of the Belgian league."

Meanwhile, Galatasaray need a point at Hertha Berlin to advance to the last round of 32. The Turkish club lost to Metalist Kharkiv 1-0 at home last week and now have six points from three games in Group B. They need another point to be sure of qualifying, although six points may be enough to go through. Hertha have two points after drawing twice and will not know until the last round whether they will advance. The German club have jumped to third in the Bundesliga after beating Cologne 2-1 with a late goal by Marko Pantelic, who may again come off the bench. The Czech Republic striker Milan Baros scored a hat-trick as Galatasaray beat Hacettepe 3-1 at the weekend. The visitors will certainly feel at home in Berlin's Olympic stadium, with tens of thousands of tickets going to Turks living in Germany. Seven Galatasaray players will be returning to their country of birth and so will their coach Michael Skibbe, who was in charge of Bayer Leverkusen last season when they knocked out Galatasaray in the round of 32. Two of Galatasaray's players, Baris Oezbek and Serkan Calik, play for Germany at Under-21 level, while the midfielder Lincoln and the defender Fernando Meira have Bundesliga experience. The midfielder Ayhan Akman is suspended for the match. *AP