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Europa League Preview

The Europa League takes center-stage this week with six places in the knockout stages still up for grabs.

Twenty-six of the sides in the round of 32 are already known, including eight that will transfer from the Champions League. A dozen teams remain hopeful of joining them in Friday’s draw, including holders Atletico Madrid who go into their Group B fixture at Bayer Leverkusen needing Aris Thessalonikii to slip up if they are to advance.

Group A
Manchester City and Lech Poznan have both qualified but first place remains up for grabs. City hold a two-point advantage and will seal top spot with victory at third-placed Juventus. If Lech, who visit Salzburg, win and City draw, the deciding factor will be goal difference, followed by higher number of goals scored, because the clubs’ head-to-head record is identical.

Group B
With Leverkusen assured top spot, the big question is whether defending champions Atlético can escape an early exit when they visit the group winners. Atletico Madrid’s fate is not in their own hands – they lie third, level on seven points with second-placed Aris, and need to better the result of the Greek team who have beaten them home and away. If that was not enough reason for Atlético to worry, Aris have the advantage of a final fixture at home to bottom-placed Rosenborg.

Group C
Sporting Lisbon have first place in the bag but second will be decided by the meeting in northern France between Lille and Gent. The visitors hold a two-point advantage so need only draw; for Lille it is win or bust.

Group D
Villarreal are through and will win the section with victory at Club Brugge. Second-placed PAOK and Dinamo Zagreb – a point behind in third – will contest the other qualifying berth in Croatia, though each could yet take top spot. PAOK need only draw to finish above Dinamo and, given they are just a point shy of Villarreal with an identical head-to-head record, a draw would be enough to take them top if Villarreal lost heavily in Bruges. Dinamo will qualify with a victory – and would advance as group winners if Villarreal were to lose too.

Group E
Dynamo Kiev and BATE Borisov have confirmed their qualification but first place is undecided. With the top two tied on ten points and Dynamo leading via their head-to-head superiority, the Ukrainian team need only match BATE’s result at Alkmaar when they host Sheriff.

Group F
CSKA Moscow have sewn up first place and Sparta Prague second before their Matchday 6 encounter.

Group G
AEK Athens will hope to join section winners Zenit St Petersburg in the next phase by taking the point they need when they host the Russian outfit. If AEK lose to Zenit, third-placed Anderlecht would leapfrog them with victory over Hajduk Split as the Belgian side hold the head-to-head advantage.

Group H
Stuttgart and Young Boys are through in first and second place respectively.

Group I
PSV Eindhoven and Metalist Kharkiv have qualified, and the Dutch club will advance as section winners unless Metalist beat them by three clear goals or achieve a high-scoring two-goal success.

Group J
Leaders Paris Saint-Germain have booked their last-32 berth and will tie up top spot with a point at eliminated Karpaty Lviv. Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund will play for the second qualifying place when they meet in Andalusia and Sevilla, a point better off in second, hold the upper hand. The Spanish club need only draw to advance, though they would top the group if they won and PSG lost. For Dortmund, the equation is simple: win and they are through.

Group K
Liverpool are sure of first place as they hold a three-point lead over Steaua Bucureşti and head-to-head superiority. Steaua are in pole position to finish second but have to do it the hard way with a trip to third-placed Napoli, who trail the Romanian team by two points and must win to progress.

Group L
Porto and Besiktas have cemented first and second place respectively.