Udinese vs. AZ  2 - 1


Europa League preview: Spanish teams poised to progress

15 March 2012 17:40

Three La Liga sides are in contention for a spot in the final eight of the Europa League when the last-16 ties conclude on Thursday.

Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao and Valencia are all leading their respective ties ahead of the second legs, and with Barcelona favourites to take out the Champions League, a unique double of Spanish teams clinching both European club competitions is on the cards.

Champions of the inaugural Europa League in 2009/10, Atletico took a 3-1 lead over Besiktas after their home leg, but now face a tricky trip to Turkey.

Diego Simeone's men should still be confident of advancing to the quarter-finals, however, as Atletico have won four of their five matches on Turkish soil - including a victory over Galatasaray in Istanbul on their way to the trophy two seasons ago.

Bilbao recorded a memorable 3-2 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford last week, giving them the advantage heading to Stadio San Mames.

Marcelo Bielsa's side have a strong grip on the tie, and could even advance should they lose 1-0 or 2-1, though the Basque club have lost just once when hosting English opposition.

Bilbao are eyeing a maiden final-eight place in the tournament, while for Sir Alex Ferguson's United, failure to progress would spell an embarrassing exit after starting the season in the Champions League.

Valencia hold a two-goal advantage over PSV Eindhoven after the first leg in Spain, but in some respects the momentum is with the Dutch side heading into the return leg at Philips Stadion.

The fans at the Mestalla would have been anticipating quarter-final action when Valencia led 4-0 early in the second half of the first leg, but two late goals to PSV kept the tie well and truly alive for the Eredivisie outfit.

The match marks PSV's first under interim manager Phillip Cocu, who took over after the sacking of Fred Rutten earlier this week.

PSV's fellow Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar will take a two-goal advantage over Udinese to their trip to Italy.

Udinese will be hoping their unbeaten streak at home in the Europa League will extend to 10 games, but they will need to score at least three times to

advance in regulation time.

Manchester City meanwhile must overturn a 1-0 deficit at home if they are to progress past Sporting Lisbon.

The Liga Sagres outfit stunned the English powerhouse with a victory in Portugal, but Roberto Mancini's men are expected to fight back at their Etihad Stadium stomping ground.

In other ties, Hannover will host Belgian club Standard Liege, with the Bundesliga side holding the upper hand on away goals after their 2-2 draw in the first leg.

Olympiakos will welcome Metalist Kharkiv to Greece, with the Ukrainian visitors aiming to overturn a 1-0 deficit.

Bundesliga outfit Schalke will also aim to reverse a 1-0 deficit when they welcome Dutch side Twente to the Veltins-Arena.

Serie A table

# Team MP D P
11 15 +2 20
12 15 -2 20
13 15 -1 18
14 16 -11 17
15 16 -18 14

Eredivisie table

# Team MP D P
1 15 +24 39
2 15 +14 34
3 15 +32 32
4 15 +8 29
5 14 +10 25