UEFA Europa League first legs: what to look out for

Two German striking greats can meet in Istanbul, while Aymeric Laporte and Pepe Reina have emotional fixtures looming; UEFA.com picks out the key points of interest.

Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski could come together in Istanbul
Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski could come together in Istanbul ©Getty Images

Bayern reunion in Istanbul
The top scorer in the history of the German national team with 71 goals, Lazio's Miroslav Klose should meet up with the man who is third in that ranking (with 48 goals), Galatasaray's Lukas Podolski, when their sides come together in Istanbul. The pair were once team-mates at Bayern München but there may not be much chance to talk old times on Thursday. "Galatasaray are used to playing in the UEFA Champions League and it won't be easy, but I'm happy to be seeing Podolski again," said Klose.
Galatasaray v Lazio, 21.05CET

Dortmund well stocked for Porto
With Sven Bender nearly fit again, Borussia Dortmund may have a full squad available for the visit of Porto. While at first glance this looks like a dream scenario for coach Thomas Tuchel, he cannot escape the responsibilities that came with such a luxury. "For a club with our ambitions, decisions to leave out established players are simply part of the routine. Every week the players have to accept that there is competition and a certain performance criteria."
Dortmund v Porto, 19.00CET

Villarreal welcome Reina back
All the talk this season has been about Napoli's attacking form – they scored 22 goals in the group stage, more than any other side side in the competition, with Gonzalo Higuaín on fire in Serie A. However, goalkeeper Pepe Reina will be the centre of attention on matchday seven, as he returns to the club he represented from 2002-05, including a spell in the UEFA Champions League. "It will be great to go back," said the 33-year-old, who is ninth in the all-time UEFA club competition appearance rankings with 145 outings to his name.
Villarreal v Napoli, 19.00CET

Laporte out to haunt Marseille
"I had a one-day trial at Marseille when I was younger," said Athletic Club's 21-year-old centre-back Aymeric Laporte. "But they didn't take me on." Agen-born Laporte – literally 'The Door' – insists there are no hard feelings as he heads back across the Spanish border, looking to strengthen his case for inclusion in France's UEFA EURO 2016 squad, with Chelsea's Kurt Zouma seemingly out of the running. "Marseille will be a hard team to beat," he noted. "But I think there is no favourite here."
Marseille v Athletic, 21.05CET

Mauro Zárate after his first Viola goal
Mauro Zárate after his first Viola goal©AFP/Getty Images

Zárate's Viola vindication
Had he stayed at West Ham, Argentinian forward Mauro Zárate would have been taking on Tottenham in the league on 2 March. However, having switched to Fiorentina in the winter, he will be taking on the north Londoners in Florence rather than East London. "I wanted to come back to Italy and I turned down other offers," Zárate said after scoring a spectacular winner against Carpi in Serie A. "The Premier League is fun but I wanted a team that was challenging for big things. This team has big players and we have to prove our worth."
Fiorentina v Tottenham, 19.00CET

Shakhtar's life after Alex
Alex Teixeira scored 22 league goals in the autumn – more than twice as many as any of his Ukrainian Premier League rivals – meaning his departure for Jiangsu Suning last week has left Shakhtar with a big gap to fill. Winger Taison has been redeployed in a more central 'Alex' position in winter training games, coach Mircea Lucescu explaining: "He likes to play there and is very hard to get the ball off. I have also tried Dentinho in this position and [Viktor] Kovalenko occasionally." Will either of them become the new Alex?
Shakhtar v Schalke, 21.05CET

Olympiacos are on a superb run in Greece
Olympiacos are on a superb run in Greece©AFP

Olympiacos await their laurels
Olympiacos have only made it through one springtime UEFA tie in the last decade, but they may have more pressing concerns as they take on Anderlecht. Having dropped just two points all season, Marco Silva's side are aiming to win the title with seven rounds remaining, becoming the first side to take the Greek crown before the onset of spring – Panathinaikos's 10 March triumph in 1994/95 being the earliest to date. They could stage the second leg of this tie as newly-crowned Greek champions.
Anderlecht v Olympiacos, 19.00CET

Sparta raring to go
Sparta are eager to be back into the European fray, coach Zdeněk Ščasný hoping new defender Ondřej Zahustel, and top scorer David Lafata – shaking off a muscular problem – can help keep his side sharp. "I am happy with the competition in the team," Ščasný said. "The players are giving even more effort in training as they can see they are not irreplaceable." Rumours in Prague suggest Krasnodar could fly straight in from their winter training camp in Spain for the first leg.
Sparta Praha v Krasnodar, 21.05CET

Highlights: Ten great Fenerbahçe goals
Highlights: Ten great Fenerbahçe goals