Soccer

5 things to know about the Europa League

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Six places in the Europa League's last 32 will be up for grabs on Thursday in the final round of group-stage matches, and some big names still aren't sure of progressing.

Dynamo Kiev and PSV Eindhoven - two teams with vast European pedigree - are the most high-profile sides still with work to do, needing at least draws against Rapid Vienna and Chornomorets Odessa to reach the knockout stage.

Others will be eager to secure top spot in their groups to guarantee a home second leg in the last 32.

Here are five things to know about this week's Europa League games:

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LAST DAYS AT LAZIO?

Vladimir Petkovic is reportedly in his final days as Lazio coach.

Having already agreed to become Switzerland's national-team coach after the World Cup and with Lazio having won only one of its past 10 Serie A matches, the Roman club appears ready to bring in a replacement during the holiday break - or perhaps sooner if Lazio does not perform well against Trabzonspor on Thursday or against Livorno this weekend.

Petkovic guided Lazio to a seventh-place finish last season in his first year in the Italian league, and also helped Lazio win a derby with Roma in the Italian Cup final. But Lazio is currently languishing only three points above Serie A's relegation zone in 12th place.

Possible replacements include former Sampdoria and Chievo Verona coach Domenico Di Carlo, current Basel manager Murat Yakin and Lazio youth-squad coaches Alberto Bollini and Simone Inzaghi.

Lazio hosts Trabzonspor with both teams sure of progressing from Group J and fighting for first place.

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NEW ERA IN EUROPE FOR SEVILLA

Sevilla enters a new phase in its Europa League history after one of the architects behind its back-to-back titles in 2006 and `07 quit the club.

Club president Jose Maria del Nido resigned on Monday from the position he has held since 2002, and from which he helped usher in the club's most successful period with those then-UEFA Cup triumphs.

Del Nido is facing seven years in prison for embezzlement of public funds and corruption charges, so his exit was expected. But that has led to reports that sport director Monchi, the talent spotter who discovered the likes of Dani Alves, Jesus Navas, Sergio Ramos, and Luis Fabiano and who built those title-winning teams, could also leave the club.

''I accomplished all that was asked with the great titles we achieved over these years,'' Del Nido said during his emotional farewell.

Sevilla, is assured of its place in the next stage, and it can clinch Group H with a draw at Freiburg. The Germans must win by a three-goal margin to top the group. Should they fail to win, Czech side Slovan Liberec can surpass them with a victory at Estoril.

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SWANSEA'S PROGRESS UNCERTAIN

Swansea secured the greatest result in its history in its opening group match - a 3-0 win at Valencia - but the Welsh team has quickly discovered the Europa League isn't always a soft touch.

Fortunate to beat Swiss team St. Gallen 1-0 at home in their second game, Michael Laudrup's side has only picked up two points from its past three fixtures to leave qualification in the balance heading into matchday six.

A point is still needed at St. Gallen on Thursday to ensure joining pool winner Valencia in advancing from Group A. If the Swans lose, they can still be pipped to second place if Kuban Krasnodar wins at Valencia.

Laudrup is boosted by the return of Michu from five weeks out injured, with the Spain forward making his comeback in the 1-1 draw with Hull on Monday.

Of England's other two entrants, Tottenham has won Group K and Wigan, now managed by former East Germany and Manchester City striker Uwe Rosler, needs to beat Maribor away and rely on Zulte Waregem losing at home to already-qualified Rubin Kazan to go through in Group D.

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EUROPEAN COMFORTS FOR LYON

The Europa League is providing Lyon with a welcome relief from its tribulations in the French league.

Between 1999 and 2013, Lyon has only once - in 2012 - failed to finish in the top three in Ligue 1. But this year, the team is in 10th place and virtually out of the title race, 17 points adrift of Paris Saint-Germain and 13 behind third-place Lille.

Things are different in the Europa League, though, as Lyon has already secured qualification for knockout stage and will top Group I by beating Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal on Thursday. The sides drew 1-1 at Stade Gerland in October.

''We'll go to Guimaraes to keep the top spot,'' Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons said.

Lyon is relying heavily on the strike partnership of Alexandre Lacazette and Bafetimbi Gomis. Both scored in Sunday's 3-1 win over Bastia in the French league.

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BIG BOYS TO JOIN THE FRAY

The third-place finishers in the eight Champions League groups will drop into the Europa League for the last 32, the draw for which takes place on Monday.

Three of those - Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica and Viktoria Plzen - were decided on Tuesday, with the other five being determined on Wednesday. They could include any of Porto, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus or Arsenal.

Chelsea, which won the 2013 Europa League, began that season in the Champions League.

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AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf, Paul Logothetis and Associated Press writer Trung Latieule contributed to this report.

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