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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

CSKA Faces an Uphill Struggle

LONDON -- Former winner CSKA goes into Thursday's UEFA Cup first knockout round, second-leg tie with work to do to remain in the competition. Ajax Amsterdam and Parma are also in danger of being eliminated.

Israel's Maccabi Haifa could upset 2005 winners CSKA with the tie goalless going into the second leg at Tel Aviv's compact Bloomfield Stadium where a full house of 16,000 is expected.

"We are not the favorites in this tie but we hope we can create a sensation, although let's not forget that CSKA are the Russian champions, they won the UEFA Cup a year and a half ago and they played in the Champions League this season," coach Roni Levy said.

Influential attacking midfielder and captain Yaniv Katan is Haifa's lone absentee after tearing his eyelid in an accidental clash during a league fixture this week.

CSKA midfielder Milos Krasic has no doubts that his team can still progress. "We will try to avoid the mistakes we made in the first leg of the battle with Maccabi," he told the Sports Express newspaper.

"The most important task for us is to score as soon as possible. If we do, the course of the game will change completely."

"I know that they are a good team, but CSKA can beat them and we will prove it Thursday," he added.

Spartak also faces a tough away trip, to Celta Vigo, after drawing the home leg 1-1. Spartak will be looking to score an early away goal to cancel out the Spaniard's advantage.

Ajax faces a huge task to overturn a 3-0 first-leg deficit against Werder Bremen, with the Dutch side once again hindered by injuries, suspension and unavailability.

Midfielders Gabri and Olaf Lindenbergh are banned, Edgar Davids is cup-tied and injured defenders Urby Emanuelson, Zdenek Grygera and Thomas Vermaelen remain sidelined.

Claudio Ranieri began his tenure as Parma coach with two defeats in four days last week, and has made it clear that preserving his side's Serie A status will take priority over UEFA Cup progress.

Two-time champion Parma, second from the bottom in Serie A, will try to overturn a 1-0 defeat by Braga with Ranieri set to rotate his squad for the return in Italy.

"It's not going to be a vital match ... but I never like to lose," Ranieri said on the club's web site.

Defending champion Sevilla is well placed to move through to a last 16 meeting with Shakhtar Donetsk or AS Nancy after a 2-0 win over Steau Bucharest in Romania last week.

Blackburn Rovers manager Mark Hughes is optimistic that his side can overturn a 3-2 deficit when Bayer Leverkusen visits Ewood Park.

Fifteen second-leg ties take place Thursday.