The 29 UEFA Europa League third qualifying round ties will be settled on Thursday, completing the lineup for Friday's play-off draw. Our team of correspondents highlight what to look out for ahead of the second legs.
Koeman's Vitesse return
It will be a special occasion for Ronald Koeman when he visits Vitesse with his Southampton side leading 3-0. Koeman took his first head coaching role at the Arnhem club in January 2000, stearing them to fourth in the Eredivisie in his first half-season. He guided the team to the UEFA Cup second round in 2000/01, losing to Internazionale Milano on away goals, before moving on to Ajax in December 2001. "It was a great experience for me to work at Vitesse," Koeman said. "At that time, Vitesse were growing. It was my first club as a head coach and it's nice to go back."
Koeman is also critical of coaches not putting their full-strength teams out in the competition. "It is a crazy thing to think about it, to throw everything away in the start of the Europa League legs," he said. "I am a person who likes to win always and I hate losing. I hate to lose and that mentality needs my players as well."
An extra injury to report ahead of the game tomorrow - I've injured my Achilles' tendon! Hopefully I won't be out of action for too long!
— Ronald Koeman (@RonaldKoeman) August 5, 2015
Trpišovský's learning curve
Jindřich Trpišovský faces a journey into the unknown as Slovan Liberec travel to Israel defending a 2-1 advantage against Kiryat Shmona. The 39-year-old took charge of Liberec at the start of the season despite no previous top-flight experience, and he has yet to oversee a European away match. Nevertheless, he is relishing the occasion. "It's a big change for me, but there's more excitement than nervousness," he told UEFA.com. "I'm really looking forward to it as I believe we'll qualify for the next round. Our players and the club have a lot of experience in this competition, so that will help."
Bordeaux take a 3-0 lead to AEK Larnaca after victory in the first European game at the Stade de Bordeaux, built for UEFA EURO 2016. That followed a 2-0 defeat of Montpellier in the opening match at the stadium in May, and there was a further boost when Cheick Diabaté converted a penalty in the first leg – his first appearance of 2015 following a serious knee injury.
Hajduk not afraid
Hajduk Split are currently welcoming their Thursday night tasks in the UEFA Europa League. While in Croatia they have managed three draws and a loss in their opening four league games, in Europe they have already got past two rounds thanks to convincing home second-leg wins, and this time travel to Norway having defeated Strømsgodset 2-0 last week. "Our problem is that we are not playing well in the domestic league after important European matches," said Hajduk coach Damir Burić. "Strømsgodset won 6-0 in their last match [away to Tromsø on Sunday], but I am not afraid. We respect them, but when we are good, we can do damage to high quality teams."
Brøndby warm to Omonia task
It may have been 24C on Monday and 30C on Tuesday, but Brøndby are training in winter tracksuits, woollen gloves and caps. Why? To prepare for the estimated 40C temperatures when they face Omonia in Nicosia with the tie level at 0-0. "That kind of heat could make us lose 25 to 30% of our usual energy, so by this method of training, we aim to reduce that loss as much as possible," Brøndby coach Thomas Frank explained.
Željezničar show desire
Željezničar may have lost their first leg 2-1 at Standard Liège and suffered defeat by the same margin at home to Radnik in the league on Sunday to make it two reverses out of two this season, but they remain hopeful for a Sarajevo tie tipped to attract a record crowd. "We have a desire to go through and we showed in Liege that we can cope with a stronger team," said first-leg goalscorer Ognjen Djelmić. "If we can repeat our second-half performance it could be us that will be celebrating."
History favours Astra against West Ham
The last remaining of the three final Respect Fair Play entrants, West Ham only survived the second qualifying round against Birkirkara on penalties and face similar jeopardy in Romania on Thursday having been held 2-2 by Astra Giuriu in London last week. West Ham were 2-0 up but had already lost Enner Valencia to a tibiu injury that has ruled him out for three months when James Collins became their third sending-off of the campaign just before the hour mark, and Astra secured what had seemed an unlikely draw.
Astra do have history on their side, having beaten Trenčín and Slovan Liberec at this stage in the last two seasons (their only previous European campaigns), going on 12 months ago to pip Lyon to the group stage. Astra coach Marius Șumudică, who has Denis Alibec back from long-term injury to give him a forward option alongside Constantin Budescu, said: "I'm ready with enthusiasm but we are not through and we have only a 40% chance of qualification. Taking into account individuals West Ham are far better, but we have a stronger squad, which is more united."
Kairat's almighty Aberdeen trek
Aberdeen travelled 5,500km, the furthest distance ever recorded in UEFA club competition, to lose 2-1 at Kairat Almaty last week in temperatures of around 43C. Now it is the Kazakhstani side's turn to make the return journey though while this is a footballing club record, Kairat's namesake futsal side (not part of the same organisation) flew 6,900km to Lisbon for April's UEFA Futsal Cup and won the trophy.
Meanwhile Stuart Duff admits his loyalties will be divided, having spent two seasons with the Dons between 2008 and 2010 before enjoying a spell with Kairat in 2012/13. However, despite travelling as a guest to last week’s game in Kazakhstan which Kairat won 2-1, Duff is remaining strictly impartial ahead of the decisive return leg at Pittodrie: "I have stayed neutral as I have allegiances to both sides. I had two great years there, probably the best of my life so far. It might be somewhere I will end up later in my career whether it be coaching or something to do with the club. I've got a lot of respect for them as I do for Aberdeen."
Huge thanks to the 85 Aberdeen fans who made the journey, the longest ever made by a team in Europe. Safe trip home. pic.twitter.com/TP7iAqM8nu
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) July 30, 2015
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