The 22 UEFA Europa League play-off ties conclude on Thursday. Our team of correspondents highlight what to look out for during the second legs.
Kairat Almaty (0-1) Bordeaux
Twenty-year-old Bordeaux goalkeeper Jérôme Prior kept a clean sheet in the weekend's goalless draw at LOSC Lille, a match that also featured the return of Brazilian striker Jussiê after 16 months out injured. Having not conceded at home last week, the French club are well placed to advance, defender Nicolas Pallois saying: "The most important thing was to register a clean sheet." Bordeaux's defensive mettle will be tested by a record 5,947km journey to Kazakhstan, however.
Rosenborg (3-0) Steaua București
Sunday's 2-1 win at Craiova was Steaua's third league victory of the season – all away – and a first since 1 August. "We're a family again and it's been very important to stick together after such a difficult and tense week," said midfielder Nicolae Stanciu. "Now we're thinking only about the second leg against Rosenborg and I don't think any of us will play with fear. We are confident, we know how good we are and we can achieve a miracle." Midfielder Jugurtha Hamroun is missing, though, with a pulled thigh muscle.
Saint-Étienne (1-1) Milsami Orhei
St-Étienne claimed their first domestic win this weekend, first-leg scorer Romain Hamouma getting the only goal at Lorient – his fifth in six outings this term – yet he is suspended against Milsami following his red card in Moldova. "My players must now find each other on the pitch," said coach Christophe Galtier, whose side have scored five times in their last five games. "We have a European spot to earn."
AZ Alkmaar (2-3) Astra Giurigu
Top of the Romanian league after eight rounds, Astra were 4-1 weekend victors against Iași with captain Constantin Budescu netting twice. Budescu has contributed nine of his team's 27 goals this season in all competitions, adding a further six assists. Coach Marius Șumudică said after Sunday's match: "I feel slightly ashamed because I didn't prepare properly. All my thoughts were and are directed towards the second leg against AZ; it's a unique opportunity. Everything we've done will be for nothing if we don't qualify."
Qarabağ (1-0) Young Boys
Qarabağ's fervent fans have the wind in their sails after last week's result in Switzerland but they are not out of danger yet. Chumbinho, Namik Alaskarov and Maksim Medvedev are still injured and their back line is not as watertight as it was last term, with goalkeeper Ibrahim Šehić uncharacteristically leaking chances. "The second leg will be much more difficult than the first," admitted Qarabağ coach Gurban Gurbanov. "Young Boys are awkward opponents. They will attack for the whole match."
Salzburg (0-2) Dinamo Minsk
Salzburg have been lax in front of goal lately. Wasteful last Thursday, they were further frustrated by a 2-2 draw against Austria Wien this weekend which leaves them eight points off the Bundesliga summit. "We need an outstanding performance and have to score three goals, no matter how," said coach Peter Zeidler.
Hajduk Split (0-1) Slovan Liberec
Hajduk will be roared on by more than 30,000 'Torcida', who had made this game a sell-out before the first leg, and they will hope goalkeeper Lovre Kalinić is in top form again. "Liberec are a good solid team, but we will see them in our stadium, in front of our fans and on our wider pitch," he said. "I hope we will be in top form as this generation have a chance to make history."
Since taking charge of Slovan, his first top-flight club, Jindřich Trpišovský remains unbeaten in the league and has won three out of three in Europe. He says he has never before coached in as pulsating an atmosphere as he experiences at his new home, the Stadion U Nisy. But in Split the volume will be turned up even higher. "We have to think of a new way to communicate because we will not hear each other," Trpišovský said. "This game might be an experience that stays with us for the rest of our lives. We have to enjoy it."
Elvir Islamović & Ondřej Zlámal
Rubin Kazan (1-1) Rabotnicki
The trip to Russia marks Rabotnicki's 50th European fixture and if they can manage a 19th win (to match their 19 losses) they will be the first-ever Macedonian side to get to a major UEFA competition group stage. Rabotnicki are without injured winger Ivan Mitrov and suspended midfielder Milovan Petrovikj yet are buoyed by returning forward Blaze Ilijoski, flanker Suat Sahiti and playmaker Dusko Trajcevski, who all sat out last week's home draw.
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