As many as nine teams could be through to the UEFA Europa League round of 32 come full time on Matchday 4, when four clubs go in search of their first group stage points.
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Seven clubs approach Matchday 4 of the UEFA Europa League group stage knowing victory will secure their place in the round of 32 with the luxury of two games to spare.
Manchester City FC, Sporting Clube de Portugal, PFC CSKA Moskva, FC Zenit St. Petersburg, VfB Stuttgart, FC Porto and Paris Saint-Germain FC will be assured of knockout berths should they win, regardless of events elsewhere. However, while they can potentially look forward to European football after Christmas, several teams are aware that defeat on Thursday will spell the end of their hopes for at least another year.
Having struck 12 goals in three Group C outings, Sporting – the competition's most prolific side – will be expected to rubber-stamp their progress against a KAA Gent team they put five past in Portugal two weeks ago. Russian rivals and former UEFA Cup winners Zenit and CSKA Moskva also boast 100% records. The latter host US Città di Palermo aiming for a fourth successive Group F clean sheet, while Zenit travel to third-placed Hajduk Split in Group G.
In Group L, Porto welcome Beşiktaş JK hoping for a similar outcome to the 3-1 win they recorded in Istanbul last time out. In the same section, PFC CSKA Sofia – without a point or a goal so far – will be eliminated if they fall to SK Rapid Wien in the Austrian capital. Elsewhere, Manchester City go to KKS Lech Poznań in Group A, Paris Saint-Germain entertain third-placed Borussia Dortmund in Group J and Stuttgart – belying mixed domestic form – can make it four Group H victories away to Getafe CF.
As with CSKA Sofia, it will also be the end of the road for Odense BK, Debreceni VSC and FC Karpaty Lviv – all of whom are yet to get off the mark – should they lose. FC BATE Borisov and PSV Eindhoven, however, can also qualify, though they must win and hope results go their way in Groups E and I respectively.