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Second qualifying round set for exciting climax

With more big names entering the UEFA Europa League at the next stage, there is plenty of incentive to progress as the second qualifying round ties conclude on Thursday.

Trabzonspor will hope to close out their tie with Derry
Trabzonspor will hope to close out their tie with Derry ©TFF

The prospect of meeting some of Europe's most illustrious footballing names is the incentive for the UEFA Europa League hopefuls heading into this week's second qualifying round second legs.

Debutants FK Mladost Podgorica and FK Senica are locked at 2-2 ahead of the return match in Slovakia on Thursday, with two-time UEFA Cup winners Sevilla FC awaiting the victors. AS Saint-Étienne, meanwhile, are next up for FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk or FC Milsami Orhei with their tie poised delicately at 1-1 after the first leg in Belarus.

FC Irtysh Pavlodar have their noses in front in the encounter with NK Široki Brijeg, though it is all to play for, with a date with Udinese Calcio on offer. Gafurzhan Suyumbayev struck late to give the Kazakh side a 3-2 advantage at the halfway stage, but Slaven Musa's men will be confident of overturning the deficit come 25 July.

Romania's CS Pandurii Târgu Jiu also have reason to believe after a 0-0 draw at FC Levadia Tallinn, while NK Lokomotiva Zagreb take a 2-1 cushion back to Croatia following their success at FC Dinamo Minsk. Norwegian first-timers IL Hødd hold a one-goal advantage over FC Aktobe; FK Kukësi travel with a similar lead to FK Sarajevo, yet the Bosnian team have two away goals to their name.

There are considerably healthier foundations for victory being defended elsewhere as HNK Rijeka are five goals better off than their hosts Prestatyn Town FC, and WKS Śląsk Wrocław are four to the good heading to FK Rudar Pljevlja.

Heavyweights FK Crvena zvezda and Trabzonspor AŞ boast two-goal leads over ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar and Derry City FC respectively. AC Sparta Praha have work to do in Sweden, however, after being limited to a 2-2 home draw by BK Häcken.