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Thoroughbreds set for last-16 hurdle

Sixteen clubs boasting the combined pedigree of 27 major European titles will line up on Thursday when the UEFA Europa League round of 16 gets under way with a few eye-catching prospects.

Hamburg's Dennis Aogo celebrates against PSV
Hamburg's Dennis Aogo celebrates against PSV ©Getty Images

A significant amount of European pedigree will line up on Thursday when the UEFA Europa League round of 16 gets under way with a series of mouthwatering prospects.

The remaining contenders boast some 27 major European titles between them, not to mention countless final appearances. Hamburger SV and RSC Anderlecht have even met in a showpiece, and the German club will be hoping for a repeat of their 2-0 win in the 1976/77 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup decider as they target the final on home turf come 12 May.

The tie between SL Benfica and Olympique de Marseille will also conjure up contrasting memories. OM coach Didier Deschamps was in the side edged out in the 1989/90 European Champion Clubs' Cup semi-finals, but will have high hopes of revenge after watching his side make light work of FC København last time out.

It was heavier going for R. Standard de Liège against an FC Salzburg side who had boasted the group stage's only 100% record. The Belgian titleholders must now overcome another in-form team as Panathinaikos FC target a fourth straight win in UEFA club competition, and if they need further inspiration they may take heart from Fulham FC. Roy Hodgson's men's reward for putting paid to last season's UEFA Cup winners FC Shakhtar Donetsk in the round of 32 is a trip to Turin to face two-time European champions Juventus.

Liverpool FC journey to LOSC Lille Métropole with the repute of five European Champions Clubs' Cup successes, and it is testament to the quality of the field that their opponents are one of only four teams left with no UEFA club competition final experience. Two, FC Rubin Kazan and VfL Wolfsburg, meet in Russia in a fixture pitting two of the sides that transferred from the UEFA Champions League over the winter. Another, Club Atlético de Madrid, face Sporting Clube de Portugal in a tie with special meaning for Simão, who began his career with the Leões.

The other Spanish contenders come up against German opposition as Valencia CF aim to exact a measure of revenge when they host Werder Bremen. The leading scorers in the UEFA Europa League, Bremen ran out 2-0 victors on their last visit to the Mestalla in the 2004/05 UEFA Champions League. Any advantage would be valuable ahead of the second legs on 18 March, with the winners progressing to the draw for the rest of the competition held in Nyon from 13.00CET on 19 March.