Europe League action returns right after the Champions League fixtures conclude, as the teams are getting ready for the all important third matchday. This set of fixtures is of equal importance to all the teams involved, irrespective of their current positions on the group table. The leaders would aim at maintaining the momentum as a win at this stage would virtually freeze their qualification to the next round whereas for the teams standing among the bottom two of the groups, must pull up their socks at this juncture to avoid a must-win situation for the reverse round of fixtures starting next month.

North London side Tottenham Hotspur are currently sharing points with Russian outfit Rubin Kazan, who occupy the top spot on a better goal difference. Being two of the strongest teams in the group, this clash is very important for both teams intending to top the group. Harry Redknappa��s men have enjoyed a decent run in the English Premier League, securing three wins in a row before being held on for a draw by Newcastle United.

The fixture list in the Premier League for the next month is slightly kind to the Londoners but Redknapp would not prefer to carry the Europa League knock-out qualification uncertainties along with those fixtures and hence Spurs must snatch three points in front of the home crowd. Trips to Russia arena��t exactly kind anyway and that must be playing on Harrya��s mind already.

In the other Group A match for the night, Irish side Shamrock Rovers travel to Greece to face PAOK, who are currently positioned second in their domestic league. While the Irish havena��t registered their name on the points table yet, PAOK have managed to secure a point each out of the two difficult games prior to this one against Tottenham and Rubin Kazan. The Irish must clinch three points travelling, should they want to remain in contention for the top two spots.

In Group B, table-toppers Standard Liege host the bottom-struck Ukrainian team Vorskla Poltava and in all likelihood, would strengthen their lead at the top of the table. The third matchday in the group stage also sees Hannover 96 visiting the Danish champions Copenhagen. Hannover are coming off a defeat suffered at the hands of Lukas Podolskia��s FC Koln over the weekend and are next to face Bayern Munich in the next league game. The European duties are hence sandwiched between two important games but the game is very vital from the Germansa�� perspective. Copenhagen are only a point behind the top two and a win here for the Danes can shuffle the table to a great extent.


Redknapp Must Find A Balance Between Europe & England


Rapid Bucuresti and Legia Warsaw have had an identical campaign in Group C so far and as they set for a clash in Romania, both have a lot at stake as the current leaders PSV Eindhoven are almost favourites to mount a very strong lead at the top with their third consecutive win over Israela��s setting a date with Hapoel Tel Aviv who have lost both their matches so far.

Cristiano Ronaldoa��s youth club Sporting CP are enjoying a very comfortable lead in Group D and are hosting the second placed Romanian club FC Vaslui hoping to claim all three points in their third successive game. Despite doing fairly well in Serie A, Edi Rejaa��s Lazio have much predictably disappointed on European front.

Italian clubs are infamous for not taking the Europa League seriously enough and the performances of Lazio only reaffirms this opinion. Having managed only one point out of their first two games, the Biancocelesti must secure three points over Zurich on their trip to Switzerland to keep any hopes alive to qualify for the next round. Though Zurich are bottom struck in the group, they trail to Lazio only on goal difference.

Stoke City are narrowly leading Beskitas by one point to lead the Group E and are hosting Maccabi Tel Aviv, who are at the bottom of the table. Stoke are coming off an inspiring 2-0 victory over Fulham at home and are facing Arsenal next weekend. With their strong position in the group, some key players may be rested for the Arsenal fixture. After their defeat at Britannia Stadium on the second matchday, Beskitas are travelling to Ukraine to face Andriy Shevchenkoa��s Dynamo Kyiv who are yet to win a game in the tournament. Dynamo Kyiv are in a rapid form in their domestic scene and are sharing points with leaders Shakhtar Donetsk.

Though PSGa��s spending budget during the summer amounted for almost half the yearly maintenance cost of the Eiffel Tower, they are yet to pronounce their supremacy on the European front. Currently lying second in the Group F table with three points, they are travelling to Slovakia to meet Slovan Bratislava who are yet to register any points on the table. Group leaders Athletic Bilbao, who havena��t dropped any points yet will host last seasona��s Austrian league runner-up Red Bull Salzburg, who famously managed two points out of two games against Juventus during the last edition of Europa League.


Javier Pastore

Javier Pastore: PSG's Marquee Signing From The Summer


In Group G, Eredivisie representatives Alkmaar Zaanstreek, who top the group will travel to the beautiful city of Vienna to meet Austria Wien FF who came back strong against Malmo FF after losing their opening day fixture at home. In the other Group G game, bottom struck Swedish champions Malmo FF are hosting Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv.

Despite the presence of last yeara��s tournament runner-up SC Braga, and English League Cup champions Birmingham City, quite surprisingly Belgian side Club Brugge are sitting pretty atop the table claiming six points out of two games. They are hosting Birmingham City in what is expected to be a very tight clash considering the importance of this game for the visitors since they are currently third on table. Braga, who are tied on points with Birmingham will face Slovenian champions Maribor, who are yet to open their account but the home conditions may favour them doing so.

Group I is arguably the toughest of the groups considering the more than decent reputation of all the four teams in the European circles. The group is pretty tight at the moment and given the credentials of all the teams, the top two places will continue to be for anybodya��s taking till the last round. In what could potentially be the best matchup for the group stage, Udinese are hosting Atletico Madrid. Both teams occupy the top two spots currently and Udinese will hope to maintain their top position with a win over the Spanish side.

Atletico might be more than content with a draw. Atletico have invested quite large sums of money in their attack this season and one of their latest acquisitions, the unnaturally talented Brazilian, Diego has reminded Udinese of the sad memories of 2008-09 when the striker, playing for Werder Bremen scored four against the Bianconeri. In the other match from the group, Celtic will be travelling to France to face Rennes.


Remember My Four?: Diego Reminds Udinese


Schalke 04, the winners of the DFB-Pokal title last season, have so far made a good impact on the Group J and are leading the table ahead of their travel to Cyprus to face AEK Larnaca. Schalke are coming of a 2-1 win over FC Kaiserslautern and are next facing Bayer Leverkusen over the weekend. Ahead of this important league fixture, Schalke may take a more cautious approach in Europe to ensure the availability of all the key players for the game against Leverkusen. Israeli champions Maccabi Haifa are second in the group and will host Romanian side Steaua Bucuresti. A win here could make life easier for the Israel outfit in the reverse round of group stage fixtures.

FC Twente are currently standing third on the Eredivisie table but are pretty much on top of their group at the European front. On the third matchday in Group K, they travel to Denmark to face third-placed Odense Boldklub after a thumping victory in the previous round of fixtures over Wisla Krakow. The Polish side on the other hand, host Martin Jola��s Fulham. After their defeat to Stoke City last weekend, this is a chance for the Londoners to get back to winning habits ahead of their clash against Everton the coming weekend. Under Roy Hodgson, they were the runner-up in Europa League only two seasons back and Martin Jol wouldna��t mind to produce those heroics with this set of players. It will be a test of character for Fulham to continue to do well in Europe, maintaining a decent run of form in England too.

Romelu Lukakua��s childhood club Anderlecht are leading Group K after winning both their matches so far and are up against Austrian outfit Strum Graz, who quite dramatically defeated AEK Athens in the previous game courtesy of two late goals from Thomas Burgstaller and Mario Haas. After the huge disappointment of that loss, the Greek side have to gather themselves back to come strong against Lokomotiv Moscow as they travel to Russia.

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