UEFA Europa League 2012: Highlighting Thursday's Marquee Matchups

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UEFA Europa League 2012: Highlighting Thursday's Marquee Matchups
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The 41st edition of the UEFA Europa League will heat back up on Thursday with 24 group-stage matches set to kick off across the continent. 

Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and defending champion Atletico Madrid are just three of the many high profile clubs that fans won't want to miss during Thursday's action. 

Here, we highlight a trio of marquee matchups to watch for on Thursday.

 

Anzhi Makhachkala vs. Liverpool - 12 p.m. ET

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The Russian Premier League will go head-to-head with the English Premier League on Thursday in Kaspiysk, where Anzhi Makhachkala are looking to avenge their most recent UEFA Europa League loss, a 1-0 defeat at Anfield last month. 

Liverpool have control of Group A at the moment, but a loss in Russia would keep the Reds steady with six points, while elevating Anzhi into first place with seven points.

Both clubs were aggressive in their most recent meeting, sharing possession 50-50 and combining to put 12 shots on goal. If the second matchup between these two is anything like what we saw two weeks ago, then Europa fans are in for a treat. 

Expect plenty of tension and defensive-minded football given what's at stake.

 

Athletic Bilbao vs. Lyon - 3:05 p.m. ET

Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Two of Europe's best will do battle in Spain, where 2011-12 UEFA Europa League runner-up, Athletic Bilbao will play host to French club Lyon inside Estadio San Mames.

The shocking storyline coming into this match is Bilbao's terrible start to the Europa competition. Marcel Bielsa's side has dropped two of its first three Group I matches, and has just one point in the group coming into Thursday.

Bilbao's most recent loss, of course, came against Lyon, who rode the momentum of playing at home to an impressive 2-1 victory. Forward Jimmy Briand put his side ahead late, just minutes after Ibai Gomez leveled the match for Bilbao.

Bielsa is hoping the club's excited supporters can energize his men on Thursday.

 

Tottenham Hotspur vs. NK Maribor - 3:05 p.m. ET

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Liverpool isn't the only EPL team seeking a Europa win on Thursday. Jermain Defoe, Clint Dempsey and Spurs will play host to Slovenian club NK Maribor at White Hart Lane.

The two sides played to a 1-1 draw in their first meeting in Maribor. Tottenham were actually behind for a few moments until the 58th minute. Something has to change soon for Andre Villas-Boas' men, who have recorded three straight draws in Europa play this fall. 

With the crowd on their side, though, I can't imagine a scenario where the Spurs don't earn three points on Thursday.

Plus, Tottenham is due for a win. Since their mighty 3-2 victory over Manchester United in late September, they have won two, played to a draw twice and dropped three. NK Maribor are one point ahead of Tottenham in the Group K standings as well, adding to the high stakes.

 

Click here to view all of Thursday's UEFA Europa League matches.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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