Atletico want to step out of shade

PARIS - Atletico Madrid will seek to take a temporary yet lucrative step out of the huge shadow cast by neighbours Real today by completing a qualifying round win over Greek side Panathinaikos to take their place in the Champions League group stage.

PARIS - Atletico Madrid will seek to take a temporary yet lucrative step out of the huge shadow cast by neighbours Real today by completing a qualifying round win over Greek side Panathinaikos to take their place in the Champions League group stage.

The prospect of missing out and having to skulk around the fringes of the continental game in the Europa League, successor to the UEFA Cup, is unthinkable to Atletico, given their need to glean some bragging rights in Spain's football-mad capital.

There is a need for the Rojiblancos to show they can make a decent fist of maintaining their own profile. That may ultimately prove a thankless task for coach Abel Resino - yet as regards making the group phase, Atletico have already done much of the hard work, beating the Greeks 3-2 away in the first leg to set up qualification at a seething Vicente Caldern stadium.

Barring a major mishap, Lyon are set for their tenth consecutive appearance in the Champions League group stages, though they have yet to get past the quarterfinals, while Anderlecht are destined for the inaugural Europa League as the Belgians slumped 5-1 in the first leg in France.

Elsewhere, Israeli side Maccabi Haifa welcome FC Salzburg with the former looking good for qualification after their 2-1 win in Austria. Swiss outfit FC Zurich likewise have one foot in the group stages after a 3-0 rout at Latvian side FK Ventspils while Debrecen from Hungary are in the driver's seat to see off Levski Sofia after coming out of their first leg in Bulgaria as 2-1 winners.

The winners qualify for last-32 group stage of competition while the losers drop into the Europa League group stage.

Tomorrow, the pick of the action will be Arsenal's return match against Celtic with the Gunners having already seen off the Scots 2-0 in Glasgow. - Sapa-AFP

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