Knockout places the prize on matchday five

With six of the round of 32 berths already filled, an intriguing matchday five could see a host of clubs secure their own places in the UEFA Europa League knockout stage.

Knockout places the prize on matchday five
Knockout places the prize on matchday five ©

Football does not usually require much mathematics, but with some UEFA Europa League groups too close to call and permutations aplenty, there is likely to be some frantic number-crunching next Thursday before a clearer picture of the round of 32 emerges.

All four Group A teams remain in contention, though victories for FC Anji Makhachkala at home to Udinese Calcio, and Liverpool FC against BSC Young Boys at Anfield, will take them through. Group B is more clear-cut with holders Club Atlético de Madrid and FC Viktoria Plzeň needing to avoid defeat to progress, though the latter face A. Académica de Coimbra, who after ending Atlético's record 16-game winning streak, still cling to ambitions of prolonging their European adventure.

Fenerbahçe SK's tally of ten points in Group C is bettered by only one side in the competition, and a draw at Olympique de Marseille would confirm their ticket to the round of 32. However, victories for OM and VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach at home to eliminated AEL Limassol FC would leave a trio of clubs with all-or-nothing ties on matchday six. Having won their last eight home matches in UEFA competition, Newcastle United FC will be confident of beating CS Marítimo to advance from Group D; success for Girondins de Bordeaux at Club Brugge KV will send them through too.

FC Steaua Bucureşti are all but assured of their spot in the next round, and could proceed even if they lose at home to VfB Stuttgart, for whom victory would be synonymous with qualification should FC København fail to overcome hosts Molde FK in the other Group E fixture. The waters are somewhat muddier in Group F, though, where former European champions PSV Eindhoven must defeat section leaders FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk on home soil and hope SSC Napoli do not win at AIK to keep their aspirations alive.

All four teams can still qualify from Group G, though KRC Genk hold the whip hand – victory for them in Hungary against Videoton FC will carry them through. Paulo Sousa's men must win and pray that FC Basel 1893 do not beat Sporting Clube de Portugal if they are to progress early – one place will still be up for grabs on matchday six regardless. Last season's runners-up Athletic Club are in jeopardy with their Group I destiny no longer in their power. A draw between AC Sparta Praha and Olympique Lyonnais, the only club with a 100% record coming into matchday five, will eliminate the Spanish side and their hosts Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC.

S.S. Lazio will clinch pole position in Group J with victory at home to Tottenham Hotspur FC, though a triumph for the English outfit in the Italian capital would take them through if NK Maribor do not prevail at Panathinaikos FC. Levante UD will advance from Group L should they win at Helsingborgs IF – anything less and they could still be caught by FC Twente, who require maximum plunder from Hannover 96 to sustain the suspense until matchday six.