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New broom and technology greets UEFA Cup return
Justin Palmer | February 14, 2006 11:44 IST
The UEFA Cup cranks back into action this week after a slew of coaching changes and boasting the latest experiment in technology.
Seven of the 32 teams engaged in first-leg ties have made a clean sweep of things during the winter break and have new men at the helm for the first knockout round.
Former Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni was the highest-profile casualty, losing his job at Bundesliga side VfB Stuttgart, and replaced by Armin Veh, a 45-year-old former Hansa Rostock coach.
Thun, the surprise Champions League qualifiers from Switzerland earlier this season, pulled another surprise out of the hat on Monday just three days before their match against SV Hamburg by sacking coach Urs Schoenenberger.
Assistant coach Adrian Kunz will take charge of the team for Thursday's match against the Germans.
Stuttgart take on Premier League Middlesbrough at home on Thursday, with the confidence of the English side restored after demolishing champions Chelsea 3-0 at the weekend.
Since their last UEFA Cup fixture in mid-December Boro had won just one league game before stunning Chelsea and have been drawn into a relegation dogfight.
Stuttgart's Bundesliga rivals Schalke 04 fired coach Ralf Rangnick just before the winter break, promoting assistant trainer Mirko Slomka to the role.
Slomka has overseen a revival at Schalke, who beat Bayer Leverkusen 7-4 on Saturday, a lively aperitif before they face Espanyol on Wednesday.
Espanyol's leading scorer Raul Tamudo is out with a muscle tear and will miss the trip.
AS Roma travel to Belgium's Club Bruges in sparkling form, the capital side just one win away from equalling the all-time record of 10 successive Serie A victories.
Captain Francesco Totti has been at the heart of Roma's renaissance but he is expected to miss the tie after complaining of sore ankles for the past two weeks. Vincenzo Montella could step in after a lengthy injury layoff.
Christian Panucci is also injured and expected to stay at home, making way for Cesare Bovo to start on the right side of defence.
Monaco, Champions League finalists in 2004, meet Basel in one of four matches UEFA have selected to experiment with a communication system involving open microphones and earphones for match officials.
UEFA has authorised the test using a system which allows the linesmen and the fourth official to talk to the referee, and vice-versa, as well as to hear what is being said on the pitch.
The other matches involved are Lille and Shakhtar Donetsk, Schalke 04 and Espanyol and Thun against SV Hamburg.
Slovakia's Artmedia Bratislava will play their home leg on Wednesday against Levski Sofia in Trnava, 45km from Bratislava, because of a frozen pitch.
Artmedia finished third in their Champions League group in their first appearance in Europe's elite club competition, but have capitalised on their impressive performances by selling off some key players in the January transfer window.
Bolton Wanderers' first-ever season in European competition continues when Marseille, 2003 runners-up, visit the Reebok Stadium in north-west England.
Bolton, who are sixth in the Premier League face the sixth-placed side in France's Ligue 1 with Bolton hoping to build a good first leg advantage over the visitors who have won only once in their last four matches.
Marseille have their five African internationals back in the squad after the African Nations Cup but will be without new recruits Toifilou Maoulida and Mickael Pagis who are ineligible.
"We had to fight hard to reach this stage of the competition, now we want to go as far as possible," said defender Frederic Dehu.
"Bolton are certainly stronger than us physically but I think that we have better skills in the midfield," said coach Jean Fernandez.
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