The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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All eyes on Owen at Auxerre

London: Liverpool travel to Auxerre for a Uefa Cup clash on Thursday that will turn old friends Gerard Houllier and Guy Roux into unforgiving rivals.

The two French managers, who share a history of heart surgery, will be in the Stade Abbe-Deschamps dugouts for the showcase match of the fourth round, first leg ties.

Liverpool, four-time European Cup winners and surprise victims of the first-phase cull in the Champions League, will aim to hit Auxerre on the break and secure a decisive lead before next week’s second leg in England.

Auxerre, who also bowed out of the Champions League despite a celebrated away win over Arsenal, beat Liverpool 2-0 at home in the 1991 Uefa Cup second round — only to be thumped 0-3 at Anfield.

“It’s a heart-attack match,” quipped Auxerre chief executive officer Gerard Bourgoin at the fourth round draw.

Auxerre are missing two key strikers — Djibril Cisse, who is suspended, and Olivier Kapo, who is nursing a groin injury.

Zimbabwean forward Benjamin Mwaruwari, better known in France as ‘Benjani’, should lead the charge backed by a five-man midfield including playmaker Teemu Tainio, the Finn who tormented Arsenal at Highbury.

Liverpool, who will be counting on the pace of Michael Owen up front, will welcome back England midfielder Steven Gerrard, currently serving a three-match domestic ban.

Owen needs one goal to equal Ian Rush’s European scoring record for Liverpool of 20 and help his team to a quarter final against either Celtic or VFB Stuttgart.

Scottish champions Celtic face the prospect of qualifying without Henrik Larsson after the inspirational Swedish striker suffered a broken jaw earlier this month.

Stuttgart had won four games in a row before losing 0-2 at Schalke 04 last weekend, the first time they had failed to score a goal in an away game this season. (Reuters)

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