UEFA Europa League Preview: Tottenham, Sevilla look to extend leads
Group leaders Tottenham Hotspur and Sevilla are back in UEFA Europa League action on Thursday, with five top-two clashes taking place.
Last season's quarter-finalists Tottenham take on Sheriff in Group K, with the leaders having not lost or conceded a goal in four European games since they bowed out of the competition last season.
A win for Andre Villas-Boas' men, coupled with a draw between Anzhi Makhachkala and Tromso, would move them seven points clear at the top while, in Group H, Sevilla can take a big step towards progression against Slovan Liberec.
The Spanish outfit are unbeaten in five games in all competitions ahead of their trip to the Czech Republic, while Group F leaders Eintracht Frankfurt host Maccabi Tel-Aviv, having not conceded a goal in the pool thus far.
Group B toppers Ludogorets Razgrad travel to Ukraine for their first ever fixture against Chornomorets, and Wigan Athletic host just their second home Europa League tie when they take on leaders Rubin Kazan in Group A.
Elsewhere, Swansea City play their second of three home games in the space of a week, going into their match with Kuban Krasnodar on the back of a 4-0 Premier League win over Sunderland on Saturday.
The Welsh side have not conceded in their last three games and are yet to lose at home in Europe, with boss Michael Laudrup targeting an important win against the Russian outfit.
"It is a big week for us, and we’ve started well," he said.
"We have three home games this week. If we can get three wins, it will put us in a very solid position in the league and a fantastic position in the Europa League with one foot in the knockout phase."
Valencia and St Gallen contest the other Group A clash, while Dinamo Zagreb will hope for their first points of Group B when they take on PSV Eindhoven.
After their dramatic 4-2 comeback win over Serie A champions Juventus on Sunday, Vincenzo Montella will be eager for his Fiorentina side to keep their momentum going against Pandurii Targu Jiu.
And Fiorentina could go five points clear in Group E if Pacos de Ferreira overcome Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in Portugal.
Lazio, meanwhile, lost their first game in five against Atalanta on Sunday and will be keen to bounce back against Apollon in Cyprus. Failure to do so could allow Trabzonspor to move top in Group J, with the Turkish outfit hosting Legia Warsaw.
Top meets bottom in Group C, with Salzburg facing Standard Liege and Esbjerg making the relatively short trip to Sweden, where they play Elfsborg.
AZ Alkmaar, contrastingly, face a 4,400-kilometre trip to take on Shakhter Karagandy, who are without a win in Group L, in Astana. PAOK are well placed to take advantage of any slip-ups from the Eredivisie side, and they entertain Maccabi Haifa.
Belgian sides Genk and Zulte-Waregem are both at home - against Rapid Vienna and Maribor respectively - while Ligue 1 pair Lyon and Bordeaux both face unfamilar opposition.
They host Rijeka and APOEL respectively for the first time, while Spain meets Portugal at the Estadio Benito Villamarin as Real Betis play Vitoria Guimaraes.
Group G sees Dinamo Kiev welcome Swiss side Thun, while Estoril travel to Germany for their Group H clash with Freiburg.