The second round of group fixtures in Europe’s second tournament has thrown up some fascinating ties to take place on Thursday. Here’s the pick of the bunch….
Dortmund vs Sevilla – Group J – 19:00
Two big names in European football go head to head for the first time. Four straight wins in Europe for Dortmund who welcome to the magnificent Signal Iduna Park a Sevilla side yet to win in five. Sevilla won the UEFA Cup twice in a row in 2006 and 2007 but in the competition’s new format they’ve been drawn in a very tricky group that also includes PSG. This could prove a fascinating tie.
Steaua Bucharest vs Napoli – Group K – 19:00
Steaua Bucharest will be without their manager Ilie Dumitrescu after the former Romania international resigned last week less than two months at the helm. Their last Europa League match ended with a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool and having been beaten by title rivals Otelui Galati last weekend Napoli will be a stern test to bounce back to. The Italian side lying 5th in Serie A go to Romania on the back of a 4-1 away win at Cesena. Napoli have a strong team including the likes of Edison Cavani, Morgan de Sanctis and Marek Hamsik and should get a win in Bucharest.
FC Utrecht vs Liverpool – Group K – 19:00
Dirk Kuyt returns to his former club when Liverpool play in their 300th UEFA club competition fixture ever in this away tie against FC Utrecht. Utrecht are unbeaten in their last four European games and Liverpool have an excellent record against Dutch teams losing just once against a team from the Netherlands. Liverpool have been considerably poor in the league this season but the Europa League represents a competiton that the Anfield outfit will consider winnable although the team that put 4 past Celtic could prove testing.
Manchester City vs Juventus – Group A 21:05
Inflatable bananas at the ready – a big tie in Manchester as moneybags City continue in their search for trophies. Juventus could prove tough opposition although you really should expect the competition’s favourites to win this one. The English outfit have never conceded a goal against Italian opposition and the last time these two met, in the 1976 UEFA Cup, City assistant manager Brian Kidd was in the team. A european night that will be relished by Man City fans and if such games two seasons ago in the UEFA Cup against the likes of Hamburg are anything to go by then we could be in for a cracking night of football at Eastlands.
Atletico Madrid vs Bayer Leverkusen Group B 21:05
Last year’s winners against the 2002 Champions League finalists where Zidane scored ‘that goal.’ Leverkusen are on top form at the moment; 4-1 winners against Stuttgart at the weekend and the German side convincingly thrashed Rosenborg in their last European fixture. These two sides look very closely matched on paper and it could make for a good game. Atletico Madrid beat Zaragoza 1-0 in their last match and will be with Segio Aguero back from injury as Los Colchoneros continue in the defence of their title.