Europa knock-outs beckon

2014-11-26 12:54
Europa League (File)

Berlin - Holders Sevilla visit ex-champions Feyenoord and Everton are at Wolfsburg in two of seven Europa League table-toppers on Thursday as qualification for the knock-out rounds beckons for several teams.

Twenty places in the last 32 are still available as so far only Fiorentina, Red Bull Salzburg, Legia Warsaw and Dynamo Moscow have advanced from the 12 groups.

The eight other spots go to Champions League third-place finishers.

Sevilla are coming off a domestic 5-1 meltdown against Barcelona but top Group G with 10 points ahead of their trip to the Netherlands at Feyenoord, who have eight with two matches left.

"We want to book our place in the knockout stage as soon as possible, without having to worry about other results. That's why we will go there to win," Sevilla coach Unai Emery said.

Emery is still likely to rest several regulars like Carlos Bacca, Aleix Vidal and Vicente Iborra. Benoit Tremoulinas and Fernando Navarro are both injured.

Sevilla are through with a victory, and so would Feyenoord if they win and the other game between Rijeka and Standard Liege ends in a draw,

Spain's other club in Europe's second-tier event, Villarreal, are also engaged in a topper when they on seven points take on German group A leaders Borussia Moenchengladbach (eight) - and the winner qualified for the next round.

"We want top finish top of the group, so therefore we obviously have to beat Borussia," said Brazilian defender Gabriel.

"This is one of the most important games of the season so far ... They showed us in Germany that they are a dangerous team so we will have to be very careful with them."

Moenchengladbach are coming off back-to-back Bundesliga defeats against Dortmund and Frankfurt after going unbeaten in their first 18 games of the season in all competitions.

Wolfsburg also had a winning run in the Bundesliga ended in a 3-2 defeat at Schalke, and aim to make amends in their group H game against Everton who thrashed them 4-1 in the first meeting.

Everton have eight points for a one-point lead over Wolfsburg, and the winner is definitely in the last 32. Everton also advance with a draw, and possibly even if they lose, depending on the outcome of the other game between Krasnodar and Lille.

"At the moment, things are going well but it's going to be a tough game," defender Sylvain Distin told evertontv. "Wolfsburg are a really, really good team and I'm sure after the game we had here they're going to try to reverse that."

Other table-toppers are Torino v Club Brugge in Group B, Celtic v Salzburg in Group D, Sparta Prague v Napoli in Group I and Fiorentina v Guingamp in Group K.

Torino and Napoli will join Fiorentina from the Serie A in the knock-out rounds with victories, and Napoli could also advance with a draw.

But Torino are on bad terms with their fans after crashing 1-0 at home against promoted Empoli, with coach Giampiero Ventura, ahead of the of Brugge who have won their previous two games away from home.

"After two minutes (into the game with Empoli) I heard people shout 'shame on you'. We are going through a difficult moment. For the players it is not easy to feel such an unfavourable environment," he said.

The fourth Italian club, Group F leaders Inter Milan, only require a draw at home against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk to hibernate in Europe as well.

Roberto Mancini has returned as coach, and Serbian midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic said: "If we win we are first (in the group) and that is what we want."

England's other side, Tottenham Hotspur, top Group C, and could even afford a home defeat against bottom side Partizan Belgrade if Besiktas Istanbul don't lose against Asteras Tripolis.

Read more on:    sevilla  |  everton  |  europa league  |  soccer


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