| BERNE, March 16
BERNE, March 16 Liverpool and Ajax Amsterdam,
nine-times European champions between them, will both sorely
miss Uruguay's Luis Suarez as they battle for survival in the
Europa League on Thursday.
Four-times European champions Ajax travel to Spartak Moscow
for a last-16 return match 1-0 down from last week's first leg
while Liverpool face Portuguese upstarts Braga at Anfield
trailing by the same score.
Suarez scored 81 league goals in less than four seasons with
Ajax before leaving for Liverpool in January and the Dutch team
could certainly have done with his nose for goal in Russia,
having dominated the game and missed a hatful of chances.
Liverpool will also be unable to count on the 23-year-old
forward because he is cup-tied.
"We would much rather have Luis playing in the Europa League
but then we would much rather have him for a long-term contract
than just for three months," manager Kenny Dalglish told Sky's
"We are happy he is at the club and we just need to wait."
Although Suarez is absent, plenty of other South Americans
have been enjoying themselves in Europe's much-maligned
South American players grabbed winners in four of last
week's eight ties and Colombian Radamel Falcao Garcia tops the
overall scoring charts with seven goals for Porto.
Brazilian midfielder Alex Meschini poached Spartak's winner
at Ajax and compatriot Nilmar netted twice to give Villarreal a
3-2 win at Bayer Leverkusen and put his side in the driving seat
in the clash between the only surviving Spanish and German
Portuguese sides Porto and Benfica regularly feature up to
eight South Americans in their starting line-ups, with
Colombians and Argentines joining the more familiar Brazilians.
Porto have been a dominant force in the competition this
year, losing only one out of 11 games, and are strongly placed
to progress as they host CSKA Moscow with a 1-0 lead from the
first leg in Russia.
The winner was courtesy of a superb strike from Falcao's
fellow Colombian Fredy Guarin.
Benfica's line-up could include Paraguay World Cup striker
Oscar Cardozo, experienced Argentines Pablo Aimar and Javier
Saviola and bright prospects for the future in Franco Jara and
Salvio is hoping to collect a winner's medal for the second
year running, having been part of the Atletico Madrid squad that
lifted the trophy last year.
"I had a wonderful experience in the Europa League with
Atletico. Now I am feeling the same with Benfica," said the
20-year-old whose team take a 2-1 lead to Paris St Germain after
goals from Uruguayan Maxi Pereira and Franco Jara.
"I think we can score in France ... we all know it will be a
very difficult game but we have very good, experienced players
who can help us through."
Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Lucas is another Europa
"For me it's a big competition," he said. "Maybe some people
don't give this competition too much importance but in Brazil
the Europa League is very important for everyone.
"I am looking forward to getting through to the next stage
and why not dream of the title?," Lucas added.
"Unfortunately I still don't have medals but when you come
to Liverpool you come to win trophies and that's the way you
have to always think. When you retire all you have are the good
clubs you have played for and the trophies you have won."
In other ties, big-spending Manchester City will try and
claw back a 2-0 deficit at home to Dynamo Kiev while Twente
Enschede take a 3-0 lead to 2008 champions Zenit St Petersburg,
the third surviving Russian team.
Rangers also host Dutch league leaders PSV Eindhoven after a
goalless first leg.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez. To comment on this story: