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5 things to know about the Europa League
Question of the Day
LONDON (AP) - Juventus certainly had grander designs in Europe this season. But having lost 1-0 to Galatasaray in a decisive Champions League group match, the Italian powerhouse’s campaign has dropped into the Europa League, with a tricky round-of-32 tie against another Turkish side, Trabzonspor.
The Europa League might not have much appeal to the Serie A leader, but the prospect of playing the final on home turf in Turin on May 14 must add incentive.
Also dumped from the Champions League despite amassing 12 points in the group phase, Napoli is traveling to Swansea while Tottenham is on the road at Dnipropetrovsk, a side led by former Spurs manager Juande Ramos.
Here are five things to know about Europa League games on Thursday:
DYNAMO-VALENICA MOVED TO CYPRUS: UEFA has moved Dynamo Kiev vs. Valencia to Nicosia, Cyprus, after anti-government clashes in the capital left at least 25 people dead and 241 injured. Dynamo president Igor Surkis offered assurances the Olympic Stadium was ready and Valencia supporters could travel safely, but UEFA moved the match on Wednesday for greater assurance.
JUVENTUS WITHOUT VUCINIC: Three-time champion Juventus is expected to be without striker Mirko Vucinic for both legs of its first encounter with Trabzonspor after the Montenegrin player injured a knee in training last week. A scan showed limited damage but revealed a “meniscus injury which will keep him out of action for a few weeks.” The Bianconeri could feature Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini, who is recovering from a left thigh injury. “We hope to fulfill our dream of playing in the cup at home. It would be a sign of destiny for all of Juventus,” Chiellini was quoted as saying by Tuttosport. “So, make no mistake, we will be approaching this journey with our usual enthusiasm.”
VETERAN EXPERIENCE vs. NEWCOMER ENTHUSIASM: Napoli coach Rafael Benitez has already won the Champions League and is bidding this season to become the first coach to win the Europa league with three different clubs. His Swansea counterpart, Garry Monk, who has replaced the sacked Michael Laudrup, is still registered as a defender for the club. Despite Monk’s lack of experience in coaching, Benitez is expecting a tough game against the English Premier League struggler, with its coach being praised for injecting new life into the Welsh outfit. Benitez, looking to secure Napoli’s first European trophy since the 1989 UEFA Cup, when Diego Maradona was the club’s idol, said, “We will be thinking about how to give the maximum in the Europa League, seeking the highest possible goals for the club.”
TOTTENHAM WARY OF KONOPLYANKA: Dnipropetrovsk striker Yevhen Konoplyanka caught the eye of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, but the Reds failed in their attempt to bring the highly rated winger to Anfield during the January transfer window. Konoplyanka stayed in Ukraine and is ready to torment the Spurs defense when the teams meet for the first time. “I’ve seen Konoplyanka in action against England and he looks like a great player,” Tottenham striker Harry Kane said. “They’re going to have some good individuals and they’ll be a good team.” Manager Juande Ramos will also face his former club. The Spaniard led Sevilla to consecutive UEFA Cup successes before a short spell at Tottenham, where he won the League Cup in 2008.
YOUNG LIONS: With Lyon’s bid for a Champions League place gathering momentum, coach Remi Garde is giving clear priority to the French league and has rested most of his key players for the trip to Ukraine. Chornomorets Odessa’s defenders may have been having nightmares about facing Lyon’s impressive attacking duo of Bafetimbi Gomis and Alexandre Lacazette - who have a combined 23 goals in the past 17 games - but neither will be there. Nor will France midfielders Clement Grenier and Yoann Gourcuff, because Garde has selected only seven established players in his 18-man squad. The rest are reserve or home-grown players, some of whom have never even played for the first team. But it is also a mark of how good Lyon’s academy is, with 18 of Garde’s first-team squad coming through the youth teams. As a reward, Lyon gave new three-year contracts to three of the club’s academy directors.
AP Sports writer Jerome Pugmire in Paris contributed.
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