Spurs, Fiorentina bid to carry momentum into Europa League
As the Europa League group stages continues on Thursday, AFP Sports picks five of the matches to look out for in the second round of pool matches:
Paris: As the Europa League group stages continues on Thursday, AFP Sports picks five of the matches to look out for in the second round of pool matches:
Monaco (FRA) v Tottenham (ENG)
After thrashing Manchester City 4-1 in the Premier League last weekend, Spurs will be in good heart for their Group J trip to France to take on Monaco. Having beaten Qarabag 3-1 in their Europa League opener Argentine coach Mauricio Pochettino will also be doubly relieved to see two of his stars find their feet -- record signing Eric Lamela dominated City`s expensively assembled midfield while England`s rampaging striker Harry Kane ended a goal drought. Monaco, who lost to Valencia in the play-offs this year, made it to the Champions League semi-finals last season thanks to a rock solid defence. The Principality side only managed a draw with Anderlecht in their opening game, but Leonardo Jardim`s side have let in eight goals in their last three league games having sold two top defenders in Layvin Kurzawa and Aymen Abdenoour. If Monaco are sitting in mid-table in Ligue 1 many pundits would point the finger at the club`s Russian billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlkev`s puzzling clear-out, cashing in on some of the club`s top talent.
Belenenses (POR) v Fiorentina (ITA)
Serie A leaders Fiorentina travel to Belenenses in Portugal looking for their first points of the group as they sit bottom of Group I following a 2-1 loss at home against Swiss side Basel. Semi-finalists last year, the Italians have a good record against Premeira Liga opposition winning their last three games on Portuguese soil. Belenenses are playing in their first group stages and are undefeated in Europe this season, claiming a point in a goalless draw at Lech Poznan in Poland. The Italians are riding high after a Nikola Kalinic hat-trick inspired them to a 4-1 win over Inter Milan at the weekend to sit top of Serie A for the first time since 1999. By contrast their rivals sit just three points above the relegation zone in Portugal.
Liverpool (ENG) v FC Sion (SUI)
Under-fire Liverpool handler Brendan Rodgers breathed a sight of relief last weekend as Daniel Sturridge scored his first goals since March in a 3-2 win over Aston Villa in the Premier League with England midfielder James Milner also on the scoresheet. Liverpool fans will receive Sion and their 2000 travelling fans with a certain trepidation. The Swiss beat Russian side Rubin Kazan 2-1 last time out and top Group B. The Alpine outfit however lost 1-0 at the weekend to Vaduz, who played almost the whole second half with ten men, a second straight league loss for the Swiss fifth placed side after four wins. The Reds drew 1-1 at Bordeaux in their Europa opener, conceding a late goal after dominating. Liverpool won the UEFA Cup three times, most recently in 2001 when they beat Alaves 5-4 nder Gerard Houllier. A good run in the Europa League this year might ease the pressure on Rodgers and for a team who have not won the domestic league since 1990, it might be their best bet for a trophy.
PAOK Salonika (GRE) V Borussia Dortmund (GER)
Borussia Dortmund travel to PAOK Salonika in Greece looking to build on their opening group win that put them top of Group C. Dortmund have won all five of their European games under new coach Thomas Tuchel by recovering to beat Russian outfit FC Krasnodar 2-1 in their opening European group match. The Germans will also be keeping one eye on the home front as they look to build for next Sunday`s top-of-the-table clash at Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga side can take heart from their rivals having not won against German opposition in over three decades, despite a squad that boosts many players who have plyed their trade in Germany.
Celtic (SCO) v Fenerbahce (TUR)
Celtic host Fenerbahce with coach Ronny Deila warning his side will have to be more clinical if they are to pick up any points against the Turkish giants. Celtic held Dutch giants Ajax to a 2-2 draw in Amsterdam in their opening Group A match despite being reduced to ten-men, even then they might have won, having conceded a late equaliser. Celtic also closed the gap behind Aberdeen at the top of the Scottish Premiership at the weekend, pulling to within four points despite being held to a goalless draw at home to Hearts. "In Europe you get punished harder and you need to punish them when you get the chance," Delia said. Former Manchester United duo Nani and Robin Van Persie will travel to Celtic Park on the back of a 3-1 drubbing by Norwegian side Molde in their opener. The Istanbul giants with the distinctive black and yellow stripes have invested heavily in recent seasons and are reportedly chasing Arsenal ace Mesut Ozil for the close seaon. The ambitious side sit level top in Turkey, but are bottom of Group A.