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Sport Europa League returns: 10 things to look out for

14:10  26 november  2020
14:10  26 november  2020 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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The return of the Champions League means the return of European football on a Thursday night too.

That's right, the Europa League resumes this week and it's still all to play for after reaching the halfway point.

Arsenal, Tottenham, Leicester and Rangers are all sitting at the top of their respective groups with three matches remaining.

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at 10 talking points ahead of the Europa League's return tonight.

The Europa League group stage returns on Thursday evening with Tottenham in action © Provided by Daily Mail The Europa League group stage returns on Thursday evening with Tottenham in action

1. Chance for Arsenal to restore confidence

After drawing blanks in their last two outings - a goalless draw at Leeds and a 3-0 defeat by Aston Villa in the Premier League - the Europa League could give Mikel Arteta's side the boost they need.

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2) Who wants the Europa League booby prize? A disclaimer to start: this is absolutely not to suggest that any team in the Premier League would try to lose games 10 ) Spurs to rest stars ahead of sterner tests ahead? Currently in fourth place with Arsenal and Manchester United breathing down their necks

Newcastle visit Tottenham looking for their first point, with Steve Bruce already facing questions about the tactics – or lack of them – he employs. Fast-forward three years and, despite a pointless start on their Premier League return , the mood Up front David McGoldrick is also yet to look out of place.

The Gunners have not scored a goal from open play in 476 minutes of football in the English top flight but they scored four against Molde in Europe prior to the international break.

Against the same opponents Arsenal could restore some much-needed confidence ahead of a tricky December. A win could see them reach the knockout stages of the competition with two games to spare. Early progression could allow Arteta to rotate his squad amid the hectic schedule.

Mikel Arteta wearing a suit and tie: Europa League could give Mikel Arteta's Arsenal side the boost they need after lack of goals © Provided by Daily Mail Europa League could give Mikel Arteta's Arsenal side the boost they need after lack of goals

2. Yusuf Yazici on fire

If AC Milan want to leapfrog Lille in Group H they will have to nullify the attacking threat of Yusuf Yazici.

The Arsenal target, who has been compared to playmaker Mesut Ozil, is the top scorer in the Europa League with six goals after two hat-tricks, including one against the Serie A giants in Lille's 3-0 win on November 5.

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10 ) Everton to press home European ambition. If Everton’s ambition at the beginning of the season was to sneak into the top six, par was nothing less than seventh and possible Europa League It would also make a par finish and a possible return to European football likely after a turbulent campaign.

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The 23-year-old is averaging a goal every 40 minutes in the competition and has scored nine goals in 13 games in total this season.

a man throwing a ball: Lille forward Yusuf Yazici has been in blistering form in the competition this campaign © Provided by Daily Mail Lille forward Yusuf Yazici has been in blistering form in the competition this campaign

3. Mouthwatering clash at Ibrox

Steven Gerrard's Rangers have not lost a game all season in all competitions and sit top of Group D but are level on points with Benfica.

The two sides meet at Ibrox on Thursday night and if their last meeting is anything to go by it promises to be an entertaining clash.

Rangers were minutes away from securing an important victory away from home but Benfica scored in stoppage time to seal a 3-3 draw. A win for either side would put them in control of the group.

Alex Curran wearing a suit and tie: Steven Gerrard's Rangers have not lost a game this season and welcome Benfica to Ibrox © Provided by Daily Mail Steven Gerrard's Rangers have not lost a game this season and welcome Benfica to Ibrox

4. Gareth Bale looking to get off the mark

Welsh winger Gareth Bale has started all three Europa League group games but he is yet to score in the competition.

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Competitions. Clubs. Ten things to look out for this weekendFootball. Gonzalo Higuaín has not set the Premier League alight since his January loan move and with Chelsea’s Should Manchester City win the Cup, the team that finishes seventh will qualify for next year’s Europa League qualifying round.

In fact, he last struck in the Europa League seven years ago when Spurs beat Inter Milan 3-0. Bale scored his first Premier League goal since returning on loan from Real Madrid this season at the start of the month.

How he will be looking to find the net in Europe once again. Spurs comfortably beat Ludogorets last time but there is plenty to play for in Group J with Jose Mourninho's side, Royal Antwerp and LASK all on six points.

a group of baseball players standing on top of a field: Winger Gareth Bale has not scored in the Europa League since March 2013 in first Spurs stint © Provided by Daily Mail Winger Gareth Bale has not scored in the Europa League since March 2013 in first Spurs stint

5. Going down to the wire in Group F

Like Spurs' group, Group F is set for an exciting finish with three sides on six points. AZ Alkmaar are currently top of the pile with Napoli in second and Real Sociedad in third. HNK Rijeka appear to be making up the numbers, propping up the table without a single point.

Real Sociedad, who are at the summit of LaLiga and absolutely flying, can leapfrog AZ Alkmaar with a draw or a win on Thursday night.

It is expected for Napoli to pick up all three points, meaning the race for the top two spots is set to go down to the wire.

Europa League: Arsenal and Leicester in the knockout phase

 Europa League: Arsenal and Leicester in the knockout phase Arsenal FC and Leicester City have made it into the second round early in the Europa League like TSG Hoffenheim. © Provided by sport1.de Europa League: Arsenal and Leicester in the knockout phase Cologne (SID) - Arsenal FC and Leicester City have made it into the second round in the Europa League like Bundesliga club TSG Hoffenheim . The two English teams cannot be ousted from one of the first two places in their groups in the remaining two preliminary round matches.

a group of baseball players playing a football game: Real Sociedad, who are at summit of LaLiga and absolutely flying, can leapfrog AZ Alkmaar © Provided by Daily Mail Real Sociedad, who are at summit of LaLiga and absolutely flying, can leapfrog AZ Alkmaar

6. Leicester quietly going about their business

Brendan Rodgers' side could progress to the next round with victory over Portuguese outfit SC Braga. The Foxes have a 100 per cent record so far as they've made a promising start to the 2020-21 campaign.

They secured an emphatic 4-0 win over this week's opposition earlier on in the month and Rodgers will be keen for a response following their 3-0 defeat by Liverpool last weekend.

Europe has given Rodgers the chance to rotate his squad with Kelechi Iheanacho stepping in for first-choice striker Jamie Vardy. The Nigeria international has scored three goals and supplied three assists in three matches.

a group of football players on a field: Brendan Rodgers will be keen for a response from Leicester side after 3-0 defeat by Liverpool © Provided by Daily Mail Brendan Rodgers will be keen for a response from Leicester side after 3-0 defeat by Liverpool

7. Celtic can keep hopes alive

Celtic boss Neil Lennon finds himself under intensifying pressure after Old Firm rivals Rangers opened up a 11-point lead in the Scottish Premiership. Things in Europe haven't gone to plan, either.

They're at the foot of Group H after picking up just one point from three matches but they can keep their hopes alive with victory over Sparta Prague, who are just two points ahead of them.

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A positive result would relieve the strain on Lennon for the time being but after being pitted against Lille and AC Milan their Europa League journey looks to be an uphill battle.

Shane Duffy, Nir Bitton are posing for a picture: Celtic must win on Thursday to keep their Europa League hopes alive but they face tough task © Provided by Daily Mail Celtic must win on Thursday to keep their Europa League hopes alive but they face tough task

8. Edin Dzeko set to join 100 club

The former Manchester City striker has made 99 appearances in the Champions League and Europa League combined.

If he plays a part in Roma's trip to CFR Cluj he will hit his century. In those 99 games he has notched 41 goals and provided 24 assists.

The 34-year-old striker, however, has played just 51 minutes of the group-stage campaign so far and is yet to get on the scoresheet.

a man with a football ball on a field: Roma's Edin Dzeko could reach 100 appearances in Champions League and Europa League © Provided by Daily Mail Roma's Edin Dzeko could reach 100 appearances in Champions League and Europa League

9. Hoffenheim's Munas Dabbur can enter the record books

The Bundesliga outfit are the second highest scorers in the competition with 11 goals and that is in part down to 28-year-old striker Munas Dabbur.

Dabbur has scored four goals in three games and with one more can surpass former Spanish striker Aritz Aduriz to become the Europa League's group stage all-time leading scorer with 19.

Hoffenheim are top of Group L and face third-placed Slovan Liberec on Thursday evening. Dabbur bagged a brace in their 5-0 win over the same opponents in the reverse fixture so could well be making history.

Moanes Dabour holding a football ball on a field: Hoffenheim's Munas Dabbur could enter the record books if he scores against Slovan Liberec © Provided by Daily Mail Hoffenheim's Munas Dabbur could enter the record books if he scores against Slovan Liberec

10. Dundalk could pick up momentous win

Irish minnows Dundalk, who became the first side in Europa League history not to commit a foul last month, were valiant in their 3-0 defeat by Arsenal.

Prior to the break for international fixtures they came close to picking up their first point of the competition as they suffered a 4-3 defeat by Thursday's opponents Rapid Vienna.

Although there will be no fans present, home advantage could prove to be the key this time around and Dundalk could taste their first victory.

a person standing in front of a building: Dundalk manager Filippo Giovagnoli could pick up a momentous win on Thursday evening © Provided by Daily Mail Dundalk manager Filippo Giovagnoli could pick up a momentous win on Thursday evening Read more

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Third-placed Blues - who can qualify for the Champions League knock-out stages with a win in Rennes on Tuesday, while Spurs have a tie against Ludugorets in the Europa League on Thursday.Third-placed Blues - who can qualify for the Champions League knock-out stages with a win in Rennes on Tuesday - face current leaders Spurs this weekend where victory could see the Stamford Bridge side climb to the top of the Premier League.

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