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Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010

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Blizzard: Atletico Madrid's Sergio Aguero (left) vies for the ball with Bayer Leverkusen's Lars Bender in their Europa League action on Thursday. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. AP PHOTO

Holder out of Europa League

LONDON (AP) Defending champion Atletico Madrid was knocked out of the Europa League on Thursday night as Aris, Lille and Anderlecht filled the final three spots in the 32-team second round.

Atletico substitute Fran Merida scored with his first touch in the 72nd minute for a 1-1 tie at Bayer Leverkusen, but Aris won 2-0 against visiting Rosenborg to finish second in Group B, behind Bayer Leverkusen.

Lille beat Ghent 3-0 to advance. Anderlecht, with American midfielder Sacha Kljestan going the entire match, defeated Hajduk Split 2-0 to overtake AEK Athens in Group G. AEK lost 3-0 to visiting Zenit St. Petersburg.

Manchester City qualified first in Group A after Jo scored a 77th-minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw at Juventus, which became the first team ever to tie all six of its first-round matches.

Manchester City and Lech Poznan, which won 1-0 at Salzburg, both finished with 11 points but City took top spot. The teams had an identical head-to-head record but City had a better goal difference.

Stuttgart and Young Boys were already assured of filling the top two spots in Group H before their final matches. Stuttgart routed Odense 5-1, while Young Boys lost 1-0 at Getafe.

Already qualified PSV Eindhoven drew 0-0 with Metalist Kharkiv to top Group I, with the Ukrainian side qualifying in second spot.

Winter World Cup?

ABU DHABI (AP) FIFA's top officials left open the option of rescheduling the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to avoid the blistering summer.

Any decision would require extensive talks with soccer federations and other overseers of the sport, they said Thursday.

In separate remarks, FIFA president Sepp Blatter and general secretary Jerome Valcke said moving the Qatar matches to winter deserves study. It could protect players from heat and show flexibility for future bid cities.

"FIFA's job is to have a World Cup that protects the players so we take note of the recommendations and go through the list of requirements," Blatter told journalists in Qatar in his first visit since the tiny Gulf nation was awarded the World Cup this month. "We will look into this and make the right decision."

Valcke, attending the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, said that switching the schedule would make it possible for a wider range of countries to bid for the World Cup — which traditionally takes places in June and July — in the future.

"Why not? It means you open the World Cup to countries where they can never play it in June and July because it's never the right period of time," Valcke said. "If you can do so, it would be a solution to open the organization of the World Cup to a number of countries in this period which is winter in Europe but not winter in the rest of the world."

Davies good to go

SOCHAUX , France (AP) Fourteen months after sustaining nearly fatal injuries in a car accident, Sochaux forward Charlie Davies is hoping for a return to action in the French League this weekend.

The 24-year-old American, who missed this year's World Cup after failing to recover from his injuries, says he is now at "90 percent" and ready to play against Bordeaux on Saturday.

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