Napoli, Marseille, Molde and Rapid to test LaLiga clubs
Holders Sevilla along with Valencia, Athletic Club and Villarreal are the Spanish representatives in Europa League action tonight.
Napoli, Borussia Dortmund, Porto, Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool are just some of the major names involved in Europa League action as the last-32 knock out phase gets under way today.
One clash has already finished with Turkey's Fenerbahce taking a 2-0 Tuesday advantage over rusty Lokomotiv Moscow, who were playing their first match since the Russian winter break.
Spanish teams were been handed mixed fortunes with the draw with Villarreal and Athletic Club facing stern competition as they face Napoli and Olympique Marseille respectively whilst current holders Sevilla and Gary Neville’s Valencia will be expected to make the last sixteen provided they overcome Molde and Rapid Vienna.
Villarreal face second placed Serie A side Napoli at El Madrigal (kick off 1900 CET). Bruno is a doubt for Marcelino with everything pointing to Napoli coach Sarri resting Higuain ahead of the Italian teams key Serie A game on Sunday night as AC Milan are the visitors to the San Pablo stadium. Both teams faced other at the same stage of this competition in the 2010/11 season with the Spanish side progressing after an aggregate score of 2-1.
Unai Emery and his Sevilla side face Norwegian side FK Molde at the Sanchez Pizjuan in the other 1900 CET start. The Norwegian side under former Manchester United super-sub Ole Gunnar Solskjærar not to be taken lightly with away scalps against Fenerbahce and Celtic along with a creditable draw in Amsterdam at Ajax under their belt during the group phase. Sevilla are a formidable force at home and will be anxious to start their campaign for a final return with a comfortable first leg margin to take to Norway next week.
At 2105 in Mestalla, Gary Neville will be hoping for a birthday boost from his Valencia side as they face an Austrian test in the shape of Rapid Vienna. Buoyed by his first LaLiga win against Espanyol on Saturday, Neville will be hoping that a partisan Mestalla crowd and the rustiness of the Austrian side coming back from their winter break will see his side into the final 16 of what in essence is the club’s only realistic tilt at silverware this season.
The newly renovated Stade Velodrome will host one of the evening’s most attractive fixtures on paper as Spanish coaches Ernesto Valverde and Michel come face to face when their Athletic and Marseille sides meet on the French south coast. Former Real Madrid player Lass is the creative engine for the Ligue 1 side and Athletic are still without Raul Garcia and Ibai Gomez. Iñaki Williams returns to the side and Valverde will be hoping that striker Aduriz has his brought his shooting boots with the Basque player currently second joint top scorer in the competition.
All return legs are scheduled for Thursday February, 25.
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