MICHAEL Reiziger is "convinced" Middlesbrough will make the last 16 of the UEFA Cup tomorrow, despite admitting that English clubs are still some way short of the European elite.

Last week's 2-2 draw in Graz means that a draw at the Riverside will be good enough to keep Boro's European hopes alive.

But, while Reiziger fully expects his team-mates to see off their Austrian challengers, he has laughed off suggestions that the Premiership is the best league in the world.

The former Holland international has extensive experience of the European game, after spending a year with Italian giants AC Milan before making more than 200 appearances for Spanish league leaders Barcelona.

Appearances against Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal mean he has also seen the best of what the Premiership has to offer this season.

While he has been impressed by the competitiveness of the English game, the 31-year-old maintains that it continues to trail its Italian and Spanish counterparts when it comes to the quality of football.

"I think the Italian and Spanish leagues are a bit stronger," said Reiziger, who made only his second European start of the season in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium last week.

"Other than Porto's victory last year, the Champions League has been dominated by Spanish and Italian clubs for a while now.

"There is a gap at this moment. In England, the football is more direct and it is physically stronger.

"The Italian league is also physically strong, but that strength tends to be concentrated in defence rather than attack.

"The Spanish league is more tactical and technical. Everything is one or two touch and you never have any time on the ball.

"Each league has its own strengths, but I think the English one is a little bit behind. The statistics speak for themselves."

The statistics also suggest that the Premiership is considerably stronger than the Austrian Bundesliga and, after last week's exertions in Graz, Boro would need a major hiccup to prevent them progressing tomorrow.

Steve McClaren's side have the cushion of two away goals, while Grazer will be without star striker Roland Kollmann after he was sent off in the closing stages of last week's first leg.

Reiziger admits that Boro already have one foot in the next round. But despite losing only to Chelsea and Manchester United at the Riverside this season, the full-back is adamant there is no risk of complacency scuppering his side's hopes.

"I'm convinced we will win on Thursday," he said. "We should have won over there so we know what we're capable of.

"We're playing at home and, so far, we have an unbeaten record in Europe at the Riverside.

"We will approach the game in the same way that we always do. We will look to score goals, but we will make sure that we don't allow them any space and don't allow them to build up any confidence.

"As a team, you have to play well but, as an individual, you have to make sure that you're concentration doesn't dip.

"In the Premiership, you have 38 games. So if you switch off for one game, you still have 37 others in which to make up for your mistakes.

"That isn't the case in Europe - there are no second chances here. You only have two games in which to defeat your opponent, so every match is like a final."

The longer tomorrow's game stays goalless, the more the attacking onus will be on Grazer.

That could work to Boro's advantage and, with the likes of Stewart Downing and James Morrison likely to be lining up in midfield, the Teessiders have the counter-attacking capability to exploit any gaps in defence.

"They are going to have to come out at some stage," said Reiziger. "At 0-0, we still have the advantage. They will have to change their game because they have to win.

"Of course, we wouldn't want to be going into the last 20 minutes with the score at 0-0. But it's not going to be easy for them if they are chasing the game."

Read more about Middlesbrough here.