Battle of old giants

HAMBURG - Today's match between Hamburger SV and Ajax brings together two clubs trying to recapture past glories.

HAMBURG - Today's match between Hamburger SV and Ajax brings together two clubs trying to recapture past glories.

Three decades ago, such a game could have been the final of the European Cup, the predecessor of the Champions League. Now, it's in Group F of the UEFA Cup.

Both sides have three points and can all but clinch a spot in the round of 32 with a win. Hamburg, who lifted the European Cup in 1983, won 2-1 at Zilina, while four-time European champions Ajax lost 2-1 at Aston Villa but beat Zilina 1-0.

Only once in the four-year history of the UEFA Cup group stage has a total of six points not been enough to qualify.

Both Hamburg and Ajax have first-year coaches and both are Dutch.

Martin Jol has taken Hamburg to the upper reaches of the Bundesliga due to the team's attacking style, and though the club has fallen behind in recent games to drop to fifth in the standings, it still hopes to remain in the mix for the title.

Marco van Basten took over at Ajax in the off-season and his team is third in the Dutch league after losing 2-0 at leaders AZ Alkmaar at the weekend. - Sapa-AFP

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