5 clubs at the crossroads in Europa League
The National staff | December 12, 2013
Six places in the Europa League's last 32 will be up for grabs tonight in the final round of group-stage matches, and some big clubs are in turmoil. Here are five sides with the heat of the spotlight on them:
1. Last days at Lazio?
Vladimir Petkovic has already agreed to become Switzerland coach after the World Cup, and with Lazio having won only one of 10 Serie A matches, a replacement is likely during the winter break – or sooner if Lazio does not perform well against Trabzonspor tonight. Both teams are fighting for first place in Group J.
2. New era for Sevilla
Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido is facing seven years in prison for embezzlement of funds, and resigned on Monday from the position he has held since 2002. Sevilla, who won back-to-back Europa titles in 2006 and ’07, can clinch Group H with a draw at Freiburg.
3. Swansea's fate uncertain
Swansea secured the greatest result in their history in the opening group match – a 3-0 win at Valencia – but the Welsh team have quickly discovered the Europa League is not always a soft touch. Fortunate to beat Swiss team St Gallen 1-0 at home in their second game, Michael Laudrup’s side have only picked up two points from their past three fixtures to leave qualification in the balance.
4. European joy for Lyon
Between 1999 and 2013, Lyon have only once failed to finish in the top three in Ligue 1. But this year, the team is in 10th place. Things are different in the Europa League, though, as Lyon have qualified for the knock-out stage and will top Group I by beating Vitoria Guimaraes tonight. The sides drew 1-1 at Stade Gerland in October.
5. Big boys join the fray
The third-place teams in eight Uefa Champions League groups will drop into the Europa League for the last 32, with the draw taking place on Monday. Three of those – Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica and Viktoria Plzen – were decided on Tuesday. Chelsea, who won the 2013 Europa League, began that season in the Champions League.
The three clubs that shifted to Europa League on Tuesday were joined by Juventus, Basel, Napoli, Porto and Ajax after Wednesday's round concluded.
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