Three Spanish sides seek Europa League progress

Published 29.11.2018 01:09
Updated 29.11.2018 08:00

Record winners Sevilla, crosstown rivals Real Betis and Villarreal aim to keep the Spanish flag flying in the Europa League (EL) by reaching the knock-out stages on the penultimate matchday today.

Sevilla require only a draw at Standard Liege to reach the last 32, so do Betis against Olympiacos depending on the result of the other game in their group while Villarreal are through if they win in Scotland at Rangers.

Six of the last nine titles in Europe's second-tier event have gone to Spain, with Atletico Madrid and Sevilla winning three each - giving Sevilla a total of five overall as they also lifted the trophy in 2005 and 2006.

Seven clubs have already qualified for the knock-outs, including the English duo of Arsenal and Chelsea and Germany's Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen.

Sevilla go to Liege with the confidence of Spanish league leaders and joint leaders in Group J on nine points with Russia's Krasnodar.

Sevilla coach Pablo Machin has remained modest throughout the successful run, saying after the latest league win against Valladolid: "Let's enjoy being top and appreciate what we are achieving."

Villarreal meanwhile languish in 14th place in La Liga ahead of their Rangers date but hope that a weekend 2-1 over Betis to end a run of five games without success is a sign of better times to come.

"We hope the win against Betis is a turning point for our season. The important thing now is to keep the momentum going with a win in Glasgow," midfielder Santi Cazerlo said.

Villarreal can not afford to drop points in tight group G where all four teams are still alive. They top the group on six points but Rangers and Spartak Moscow have five each and Rapid Vienna, who go to to Moscow in the other game, four.

Betis are also top of their group F on eight points, with AC Milan - who host eliminated Dudelange in the other game - and Olympiacos on seven each.

They have scored stunning away victories at Barcelona in La Liga and at AC Milan in the Europa League but now want to finally win at home again for the first time in all events since a 3-0 over Dudelange in early October.

But coach Quique Setien said: "We are a team in the making, we still lack some things. I have a lot of confidence in this team, they are growing, we have a good performance rate." Milan will be hoping for a draw in Seville while they are big favorites against Dudelange, with coach Gennaro Gattuso planning a two-man strike force of Gonzalo Higuain and Patrick Cutrone.

"Gonzalo will play and I hope that Patrick recovers as we will try to play with two hitters because it is a game we must win at all costs," Gattuso said.

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