UEFA Europa League Preview: Tottenham, Sevilla, Feyenoord prepare for play-off ties
By Football News
Four former winners enter the UEFA Europa League for the play-offs hoping to secure one of 30 group stage places.
Sevilla - who won the tournament in 2006 and 2007 – welcome Slask Wroclaw to Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan hoping to build on their strong start to the season with a home victory.
The Spanish side have seen important players leave during the close-season – Jesus Navas, Gary Medel and Alvaro Negredo all moved to the Premier League in England – but with the arrival of Kevin Gameiro and continued development of Geoffrey Kondogbia means hopes remain high.
Wroclaw finished third in the Ekstraklasa last season but have started the new campaign terribly with no win in their opening four matches.
The Polish side are trying to get beyond the play-off stages of the Europa League in its current format for the first time having fallen to Helsingborg and Hannover in the past two seasons.
Andre Villas-Boas' Tottenham side - quarter-finalists last season - will be aiming to go further in the competition this time but face a trip to Georgia against Dinamo Tbilisi.
The Premier League side will have new signings Roberto Soldado and Etienne Capoue available for their trip, although Gareth Bale is unlikely to feature as speculation continues about his future at White Hart Lane.
Another former winner of the competition - in its previous guise as the UEFA Cup - are Eintracht Frankfurt, and Armin Veh's side face a trip to Azerbaijan in the first leg of their tie with Qarabag.
After a tough start to the Bundesliga season – they have lost both their games, including a 6-1 defeat to Hertha Berlin on the opening weekend – Veh has added Czech striker Vaclav Kadlec to his ranks and will be hoping the 21-year-old can make an immediate impact.
The play-off round has a host of top European clubs entering it that includes 2002 winners Feyenoord. The Dutch side face Kuban Krasnodar as they attempt to reach the group stages of a European competition for the first time in four seasons.
Vincenzo Montella's Fiorentina side finished in fourth place in Serie A last season and have added the strike power of Mario Gomez and creativity of Joaquin to their squad in preparation for the new season.
Both players played in the UEFA Champions League last season and could feature when Fiorentina travel the short distance to Switzerland to face Grasshopper.
Ukrainian outfit Dynamo Kiev have participated in European competition for the last 26 seasons and face a trip to Kazakhstan to play Atkobe in their first leg.
Oleg Blokhin’s side have enjoyed a mixed start to the new league campaign – winning three of their opening six matches – but he will be expecting a victory over the Kazakh minnows.
Another 23 ties are due to take place on Thursday, while one side - Maccabi Tel Aviv - already have a place in the group stages.
The Israeli side were given a bye after PAOK were reinstated to the UEFA Champions League following Metalist Kharkiv's disqualification for alleged links to match-fixing.