Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Bilbao's Fernando Llorente is the Europa League top scorer.
Bilbao's Fernando Llorente is the Europa League top scorer.

Spanish feel for Europe's second trophy

Fifteen clubs are already through to the last 32 knock-out stage and they will be joined by a further eight sides who finished third in their Champions League group.

Mocked by some who compare it unfavourably with the Champions League, Uefa's rebranded Europa League sees its group stage concluded tonight and tomorrow. Fifteen clubs are already through to the last 32 knock-out stage and they will be joined by a further eight sides who finished third in their Champions League group. Among those are giants like Liverpool, Juventus, Marseille and Atletico Madrid who will add a further boost to the credibility of the fledgling competition.

Atletico will become the fourth Spanish club in the Europa League, with Spain already better represented than any other country. Athletic Bilbao, Valencia and Villarreal have been performing well. The Basques have already qualified, though they aim to avenge an earlier 3-1 defeat by Werder Bremen tonight and finish top of their group. The Germans, with 14 goals the tournament's top scorers, will clinch the top spot instead should they avoid losing, or lose by only one goal, in Bilbao.

Athletic's six-goal striker Fernando Llorente is the competition's top scorer and Athletic, who have not played in the Champions League for more than a decade, are taking the competition seriously. They came through two qualifying ties to reach the group stage and their San Mames home has been full to its 40,000 capacity for all three of their victorious home games, ample justification that the competition exists for both great clubs and emerging sides who may miss out of the Champions League.

Valencia, fourth in the Primera Liga and top of their group, play at Italian side Genoa tomorrow, needing a draw to qualify, but so tight is their group, a defeat could end their interest in the competition. Unai Emery's side won 3-2 at home when the sides met earlier in the season. The tournament has failed to capture the attention of Valencia fans used to watching Champions League football. Average crowds for their three Europa League home games in their 55,000 Mestella home have been 19,000. The competition is held in higher regard in Genoa, who had a crowd of 34,000 for their last home game against Lille. Requiring a victory against Valencia to guarantee qualification, a 40,000 full house is expected at the Luigi Ferraris, one of football's most atmospheric arenas. Among the tournament favourites, Valencia will be strengthened by the signing of Argentine midfielder Alejandro Dominguez, the Russian Premier Liga player of the year, from Rubin Kazan.

Villarreal wrap up their campaign with a home game against FC Salzburg tomorrow. Both sides have already qualified from Group G, with Salzburg the surprise leaders after their impeccable record of five consecutive wins - the only side to boast such a record. Uefa can feel satisfied with how the competition is developing - and the added attention it will receive with the knock-out stage. amitten@thenational.ae

Bilbao v Werder Bremen, KO 12.05am, Aljazeera Sport + 5

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 UAE’s Charlie Sargent tries to avoid a tackle by Singapore team members during the one-off Division 1 Test at The Sevens. The Singapore-born winger was making his debut. Sarah Dea / The National

Asian Five Nations: UAE go into rebuilding mode in Division 2

With a new look squad, including five emerging Emirati players, the UAE will hope to restructure and get into the winning habit in more forgiving climes when they drop a level in the revamped competition next season.

 Chelsea players argue with Atletico Madrid during their scoreless draw in the Champions League semi-final first leg match at the Vicente Calderon Stadium in Madrid, Spain on Tuesday. Gerard Julien / AFP / April 22, 2014

In pictures: Chelsea lock horns with Atletico in scoreless Champions League draw

Chelsea held Atletico Madrid scoreless at home on Tuesday as the two will head to Stamford Bridge for a winner-take-all second leg.

 Chris Gayle has been the most feared batsman in the Royal Challengers Bangalore line-up since he joined the team in 2011. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP

Parthiv continues to fill Gayle’s big shoes for Bangalore

Indian wicketkeeper-batsman will continue to open the innings for Royal Challengers with the West Indian still nursing his bad back, writes Paul Radley.

 Ian Poulter is fifth on the points list to make the cut in a 12-man European side for the Ryder Cup. Paul Lakatos / AFP

Ian Poulter sees momentum in Europe’s squad-building, with Ryder

Lot of players are striking well to stay in contention for the 12 spots in the team, but there is still lot of time before September, he warns.

 Erykan Bityutsky pulls a 4x4 car during the final day of the UAE Strongman Competition in Dubai. Delores Johnson / The National

UAE Strongman Competition takes weight training to a whole new scale

Two-day competition in Dubai attracts men and women from across the Emirates and proves it takes more than just bulky muscles to win, writes Ali Khaled.

 Benfica's Oscar Cardozo, from Paraguay, lifts the trophy celebrating after beating Olhanense on Sunday at Estadio da Luz. Benfica's 2-0 clinched them the Portuguese Primeira Liga championship. They will play Juventus in the the first leg of their Europa League semi-final tie on Thursday April 24. Francisco Seco / AP / April 20, 2014

Ambitious Benfica ready for Juventus while Sevilla and Valencia set to battle in Europa last-four

Benfica, fresh off clinching their 33rd Portuguese title, are looking to keep Juventus from reaching the Europa League final - which will be played in Turin - while the other semi-final sees La Liga rivals Sevilla and Valencia clash.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National