Some of Europe's biggest names will be in action this evening as the curtain lifts on the bulk of the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round ties, with the likes of AS Roma, PSV Eindhoven and Hamburger SV all vying to draw a step closer to the competition proper.
Roma head a list of 30 clubs entering the fray at this juncture, where they join up with the 40 sides to have triumphed in the previous round. For the Italian heavyweights, beaten by Arsenal FC in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round last term, that means an intriguing encounter with Belgian contenders KAA Gent, who edged past FC Naftan Novopolotsk on away goals to reach this stage. The two teams begin their contest at the Stadio Olimpico in the Italian capital with, like all the teams competing at this stage, a play-off round berth at stake for the eventual victors.
Also hoping to advance are 1987/88 European Champions Clubs' Cup winners PSV Eindhoven, who are desperate not to miss out on European football altogether after failing to enter into UEFA Champions League contention following their fourth-placed Eredivisie finish last term. "We want to go for prizes in all competitions," said new coach Fred Rutten, whose charges kick off at home against Bulgarian outfit PFC Cherno More Varna.
Hamburg are no less ambitious after a promising season on all fronts last time out and the 1982/83 European champions travel to Denmark to face Randers FC, who downed FK Sūduva 2-1 on aggregate in the second qualifying round. Continental conquerors three years after Hamburg in 1985/86, FC Steaua Bucureşti are also keen to recapture former glory and they host Scottish rivals Motherwell FC, while Roy Hodgson's Fulham FC return to European competition for the first time in seven years away against Lithuanian opponents FK Vėtra.
The Turkish presence in the UEFA Europa League's inaugural edition has the potential to be very strong, with Trabzonspor to enter in the play-off round and both Galatasaray AŞ and Fenerbahçe SK taking to the field this evening. Former UEFA Cup winners Galatasaray visit Maccabi Netanya FC while their compatriots entertain Budapest Honvéd FC.
Elsewhere, Spanish challengers Athletic Club Bilbao host BSC Young Boys, LOSC Lille Métropole are at FK Sevojno and two-time UEFA Cup winners IFK Göteborg welcome Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC. Bnei Yehuda Tel-Aviv FC defeated FC Paços de Ferreira 1-0 on Tuesday in the only tie to have already got under way. For a full list of this evening's fixtures, click here.
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