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Europa League: French clubs, Fekir, Swedes struggling... 5 questions about Thursday's matches

After the Champions League, it's time for the Europa League to begin the return matches of its group stage.

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Europa League: French clubs, Fekir, Swedes struggling... 5 questions about Thursday's matches

After the Champions League, it's time for the Europa League to begin the return matches of its group stage. The 4th day will be held this Thursday with three French clubs still in the running. Some French internationals will be there and hope to bring their team closer to the round of 16.

Undefeated leader of group B, Olympique de Marseille has little margin: it has 5 points ahead of AEK Athens (4), Brighton (4) and Ajax Amsterdam (2). A victory in Athens this Thursday (9 p.m.) would place OM in a comfortable position. Stade Rennais, leader of group F, is in an even better situation. With 6 points, it is ahead of Panathinaikos (4) which it hosts on Thursday (6:45 p.m.), Villarreal (3) and Maccabi Haifa (1).

On the other hand, it’s tense for Toulouse. Liverpool (9 points) dominates the debates and behind, TFC is tied on points (4) with Union Saint-Gilloise. The Austrians from LASK (0) complete group E. As they welcome the Reds to the Stadium (6:45 p.m.), the Violets are under pressure. “No need to motivate the players, nor any specific talks. The players obviously all want to play such a match,” proclaimed Spanish coach Carles Martinez Novell.

A victory at Slovan Bratislava this Thursday (9 p.m.) and LOSC will enter the round of 16 of the Europa Conference League. The Dogues sit at the top of group A (7 points) ahead of the Slovak club (6). Followed by the Faroese from Klaksvik (4) and the Slovenes from Olimpija Ljubljana (0). Lille has lost only one of its last 12 matches in all competitions, at home against Reims on September 26 (1-2).

Ibrahima Konaté (24 years old, Liverpool): He was rested two weeks ago against Toulouse. Whose fault is it ? To Didier Deschamps, if we are to believe Jürgen Klopp. “I like absolutely everything about him (Konaté), but the problem is that he has had several injuries,” explained the Reds coach, annoyed that “Monsieur Deschamps” made the defender play “90 and 87 minutes” against the Netherlands and Scotland during the international break in mid-October. Since then, Konaté has swallowed two entire Premier League matches. An indisputable starter at both the club and the Blues, he will be quite an obstacle for the Toulouse attackers this Thursday.

Jordan Veretout (30 years old, Olympique de Marseille): An assist against Ajax, a goal against Brighton and another against AEK Athens. In addition to being a key element in the heart of Marseille's game, Jordan Veretout has been decisive on every day of the Europa League this season. “That's my game, it's being higher on the pitch, projecting myself forward, supporting the actions,” said the former AS Roma player to AFP, praising his connection with Italian coach Gennaro Gattuso. The injury to his friend and captain in the middle, Valentin Rongier, will increase his responsibilities.

SEE ALSO – The best of Jordan Veretout with OM last season

Nabil Fekir (30 years old, Real Betis): He is the darling of the Benito-Villamarin stadium, and it showed last Saturday. Nabil Fekir received a standing ovation for his return to competition against Mallorca, 8 months after yet another rupture of the cruciate ligament in his left knee. Entering in the 87th minute, the hard-hitting attacking midfielder could continue with slightly more playing time against Aris Limassol (9 p.m.). “I am very happy with his return, he is a player who makes the difference,” commented his coach Manuel Pellegrini about the former Lyonnais world champion in 2018, who has not played for the Blues since September 2020.

They will also be out: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Étienne Capoue (Villarreal), Djibril Sidibé (AEK Athens), Enzo Crivelli (Servette FC), Jonathan Clauss (Marseille), Adrien Truffert, Benjamin Bourigeaud, Ludovic Blas, Martin Terrier and Arnaud Kalimuendo (Rennes)

Four teams can validate their ticket for the next round, including Stade Rennais. For this, the Bretons must win against Panathinaikos, and hope for a draw, at the same time, between Villarreal and Maccabi Haifa. It's a little simpler for three other clubs who are among the favorites for this Europa League: Liverpool, AS Roma, and Bayer Leverkusen.

Liverpool will necessarily qualify by beating Toulouse, and would even go through with a draw if the Union Saint-Gilloise does not beat the Austrians of LASK. Same for Leverkusen who can settle for a draw at Qarabag if Molde does not win at BK Häcken. Finally, José Mourinho's Roma, finalist last season, only needs a draw at Slavia Prague.

Champion of Sweden for the first time in its history in 2022, BK Häcken had to go through four preliminary rounds to finally discover the group stage of a European competition. So it’s Tom Thumb of this Europa League season. And the logic has, so far, been respected: the Gothenburg-based club has lost its three matches against Leverkusen (4-0), Qarabag (0-1) and Molde (5-1). He has the worst defense in C3 with 10 goals conceded. Positive point: he is first in the fair play rankings with only one yellow card received. We are satisfied with what we have.

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