City and Juve dominate Europa League skyline

Manchester City FC's meeting with Juventus dominates the UEFA Europa League Matchday 2 fixtures, but Thursday's ties see footballing stardust sprinkled liberally across the continent.

Alessandro Del Piero will look to shine in Manchester
Alessandro Del Piero will look to shine in Manchester ©Getty Images

FC Salzburg coach Huub Stevens said UEFA Europa League Group A was "as good as the Champions League" after his side were drawn alongside Juventus and Manchester City FC, and some may think that the top-billed tie on Matchday 2 is worthy of a higher stage.

Even Roberto Mancini's players at the big-spending Premier League team may have a few stars in their eyes as Juventus – two-time European champions and three-time UEFA Cup winners – make a first trip to the City of Manchester Stadium, with their manager confirming: "Juventus are traditionally one of the very top sides in Europe and are maybe the biggest name in this year's Europa League."

Having won the continent's biggest club prize on five occasions, Liverpool FC might dispute that assessment as they visit FC Utrecht, with forward Dirk Kuyt battling to be fit to face his old club in Group K. The Dutch team drew 0-0 at SSC Napoli on Matchday 1, but may feel a little starstruck ahead of the Reds' arrival. Coach Ton du Chatinier said after the draw: "Everyone was hoping for Liverpool."

Fond memories will be revived elsewhere. FC Zenit St. Petersburg striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov scored his first hat-trick in UEFA club competition the last time his side met AEK Athens FC, and registered his second against RSC Anderlecht on Matchday 1. AC Sparta Praha defender Erich Brabec, meanwhile, is looking forward to revisiting an old stamping ground in Group F.

The 33-year-old spent four years in Russia, the first two with FC Dinamo Moskva, and hopes to catch up with an old SK Slavia Praha team-mate when his club take on PFC CSKA Moskva, saying: "I'm glad to be going back to Moscow as I played there for Dinamo a few years ago. CSKA's Tomáš Necid is a former colleague from Slavia. I'll have to give him a call."

Finally, in the Moldovan capital Tiraspol, FC Sheriff captain Vazha Tarkhnishvili predicted "a real frenzy" when his team host FC Dynamo Kyiv in Group E, explaining that "there are lots of Dynamo fans in Moldova". The 39-year-old defender added: "I was a Dynamo Kyiv fan as a kid and I really like their style. I followed Andriy Shevchenko's career and always dreamed of meeting him on the pitch."