By Rob Stanworth | Europa League
The second-leg fixtures of the Europa League round of 32 get underway on Thursday with many of the ties precariously placed.
The usual suspects have meandered their way through the group stages, despite the majority playing their second 11, and they are now looking forward to progressing to the latter rounds, although they will have to overcome the third-place dropouts from the Champions League.
In order to do that, some will have to overcome deficits in their second leg. Here is the lowdown on Thursday night’s top ties, with the first leg score in brackets.
Liverpool (0) v (2) Zenit St Petersburg, 8.05pm, ITV1
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers described his side’s first leg performance as almost the perfect showing away from home in Europe. Pity that they lost 2-0 then, leaving them plenty to do at Anfield on Thursday. Daniel Sturridge, who has made such a big impact since arriving from Chelsea, is cup-tied which piles the pressure on Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard to carry their side through. If you think Liverpool can qualify then they can be backed at 5/2, with the Russian side available at 1/4.
Rubin Kazan (2) v (0) Atletico Madrid, 5pm
The Russians pulled off a major surprise by beating the in-form Spanish giants 2-0 last week. Having won this competition twice in the previous three years and mounting a strong case to usurp Real Madrid as Spain’s second best side, Diego Simeone’s side should not be written off. They are priced at 5/1 to qualify for the next round, with the Russians at 1/10 to keep hold of their advantage.
Metalist Kharkiv (0) v (0) Newcastle United, Live, ESPN, 6pm
Newcastle travel to Ukraine knowing that they have to improve on their league performances this season to go through to the last 16. Papiss Cisse had two goals wrongly disallowed for offside in the first leg, and he will need to be on form on Thursday if the Magpies are to progress. They might also have to contend with a heavy Metalist pitch, which could disrupt the passing flair of Yohan Cabaye and Newcastle’s French legion. The hosts can be backed at 4/6 to qualify, with Alan Pardew’s side available at 11/10. Cisse’s odds of scoring two goals, this time legitimately, are 18/1.
FC Viktoria Plzen (3) v (0) Napoli, 8.05pm
FC Viktoria Plzen’s 3-0 victory in the first leg was undoubtedly the shock of the round. Despite a team boasting the in-demand Edison Cavani and Marek Hamsik, the Italians crumpled and have left themselves a mammoth task in the second leg. There isn’t a lot of value in Plzen’s 1/66 odds of qualifying, but Napoli can be backed at 11/1 if you fancy a night of sitting on the edge of your sofa and praying for goals.