Madrid, Feb 24 (IANS) Four Spanish sides are in Europa League action on Thursday night as they try to preserve their country’s impressive record in Europe in 2016.
The first leg ties of the Champions League first 16 have so far seen Real Madrid and Barcelona achieve creditable away wins, while the first leg matches in the Europa League last week saw Valencia, Villarreal and Sevilla all win at home, while Athletic Club Bilbao won away to Olympique Marseilles, reports Xinhua.
Now those four have the chance to finish the job, qualify for the last 16 and build on a Spanish record of six games and six wins with a total of 15 goals scored and none conceeded.
Athletic Club defend a hard-fought 1-0 advantage in their San Mames stadium, but the Basques will be without the injured Inaki Williams, who twisted his ankle at the weekend, and have a doubt over the fitness of top scorer Aritz Aduriz with a thigh injury.
Villarreal have perhaps the toughest task of the four as they defend a 1-0 lead away to free scoring Italian side, Napoli. However the side fourth in the Spanish Primera Liga table showed at the weekend with a battling 0-0 draw away to Atletico Madrid that they are capable of shutting out the toughest rivals on their day.
Sevilla’s main enemy will probably be the cold weather as the reigning Europa League champions won their first leg tie 3-0 at home to Norwegian outfit Molde and can expect a straightforward return leg in Norway against a side that has not begun its domestic season.
Finally Gary Neville will be able to rest key players for the weekend as Valencia travel to Vienna with a decisive 6-0 first leg triumph at home to Rapid Vienna a week ago.
Three wins in three games has changed the atmosphere at the club and Neville will be able to celebrate that as his side book their place in the last 16.