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Do Or Die For The UEFA Cup

Bonsy continues COS’s UEFA cup coverage with a preview of today’s matches.

Two years ago to the day, Denis Wise took his Millwall team to a hostile Budapest for their Uefa Cup 2nd leg tie with Ferencavros. The Londoners lost out 3-1, were eliminated, and have been in steady decline ever since, inevitably, Wise parted with the Lions at that end of that season.

Tonight, West Ham will seek to ensure that they won’t be following in their East London rival’s footsteps. A challenge awaits them under the shadow of Mount Etna as they seek to overturn a 1-0 against Palermo. Seasons are not all over by September but managers’ careers have been known to be.

Alan Pardew will be reminded of that, if West Ham crash out in Sicily. Pre season optimism, after the previous term’s promise, was given a shot in the arm when Javeier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez arrived at Upton Park, on transfer deadline day. Pardew immediately suggested that the two signings would take West Ham to a new level, at present the Argentineans have yet to see victory. Aware of his own fate, the Hammers’ Boss has now admitted that talk of the two arrivals had been one of the factors for his team’s poor start.

Preparing for his biggest game of the season, Pardew has to cope with the distraction of more gossip, this time potential takeover of the club. Intent on dealing with the unsettling effects of the speculation, the Hammers’ Boss will want to impress any new owners.

The names of forty European teams will be placed into the draw for the group stages of the Uefa Cup next Tuesday. English teams can aim to bag a tenth of those places, with Newcastle, Blackburn and Tottenham all odds on to qualify.

Spurs should take advantage of their 1-0 away win in Prague and on paper, should be more than capable of disposing with the Czech capital’s second biggest side. But they start the match having not hit the back of the net in their last four domestic matches and like Pardew, Martin Jol will be aware of the consequences of failure.

Glenn Roeder will be more comfortable, as his Newcastle side shouldn’t be troubled by Levadia Tallinn. Sitting on an away win, expect the Geordies to enjoy a goalfest at home against the Estonians. Roeder’s own disruption has been dealing with the parting company of Assistant Manager Kevin Bond, this week. But a place in the Group stages with a favourable Uefa coefficient ranking will relieve the pressure.

Blackburn Rovers take on Salzburg with two away goals to their name and two back-to-back wins since the meeting the Austrians in the first leg. Mark Hughes was searching for a tonic after the winless start to the Premiership but an impressive first leg performance has ignited his side’s season.

That’s an achievement that never materialised for his old teammate Dennis Wise.