5 things to know about the Europa League
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
LAST DAYS AT LAZIO?
Vladimir Petkovic is reportedly in his final days as Lazio
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf, Paul Logothetis and Associated
Press writer Trung Latieule contributed to this report.