Here’s a look at five of the best of Thursday’s Europa League games, with English Premier League sides Liverpool and Tottenham looking to punch their tickets to the knockout rounds:
Liverpool v Bordeaux:
Liverpool can clinch their place in the last 32 with victory over Bordeaux at Anfield. The Jurgen Klopp era at Liverpool is still in its infancy but the German’s arrival is already helping transform the Reds, who thumped erstwhile Premier League leaders Manchester City 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. “I would love to win a game like this at Anfield. That’s our next challenge,” Klopp said, having seen his side knock off champions Chelsea and City in successive away games. Bordeaux are third in Group B, three points behind Liverpool, but their record in England makes for bleak reading with five defeats in five visits and no goals scored.
Qarabag v Tottenham Hotspur:
The timing of Thursday’s trip to Azerbaijan is not ideal for Mauricio Pochettino’s side with the visit of Chelsea just three days later. However, Tottenham can wrap up qualification for the knockout phase with a win against Group J rivals Qarabag, although the Azerbaijani champions are unbeaten at home in Europe this term. Conversely, Spurs have struggled on their travels and are without a win in four European away games, but confidence is high after a 4-1 demolition of West Ham over the weekend which saw England striker Harry Kane net twice to continue his red-hot goal-scoring form.
Celtic v Ajax:
Neither Celtic nor Ajax can afford a false step when they meet in Glasgow as both bid to overhaul Fenerbahce for second place in Group A. Successive defeats have left Celtic three points adrift of the Turks with Ajax just one point better off and a draw will see both sides eliminated if Fenerbahce beat already-qualified Molde. Celtic have gone nine games in this competition without a win — three short of the record — and defender Dedryck Boyata knows there’s no more margin for error. “It’s a really important game. Our last two games in (Europe) were disappointing…we didn’t manage to be as good as we usually are. (Now) we need to be at our best.”
Basel v Fiorentina:
Swiss champions Basel can claim their place in the next round by completing the double over Fiorentina and former coach Paulo Sousa at St Jakob-Park. Meanwhile La Viola can do likewise with a win combined with a draw between Belenenses and Lech Poznan. The Italians relinquished top spot in Serie A over the weekend after a 2-2 draw at home to Empoli, having trailed 2-0 at half-time in Florence. Sousa admitted selection errors after leaving out Nikola Kalinic and Josip Ilicic, with the former coming off the bench for the second half and scoring twice to salvage a point.
Lokomotiv Moscow v Sporting Lisbon:
Sporting are flying high atop the Portuguese league but their European adventure could end prematurely unless they beat Lokomotiv in Russia. Jorge Jesus’ men are third in Group H with just four points after a comprehensive 3-0 defeat at Albanians Skenderbeu last time out extended their winless away run in Europe to 17 matches. Unbeaten Lokomotiv, who top the group with eight points, can nail down a last-32 spot with a victory, which would spell the end for Sporting if second-place Besiktas beat Skenderbeu in Turkey.