5 Players to Watch in Europa League Last 32
The UEFA Champions League takes the spotlight, but the UEFA Europa League is still a wonderful excuse to watch football on a Thursday night.
The round of 32 kicks off with some enticing clashes, as Ajax meet Steaua Bucuresti, Borussia Moenchengladbach face Napoli and Atletico Madrid welcome Rubin Kazan.
We've picked out five players to keep your eye on while the games take place.
Lars Bender, Bayer Leverkusen
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Both of the Bender brothers have been linked to Manchester United over the past 12 months, and Lars, of Bayer Leverkusen, is expected to move on soon (via The Daily Mail).
Bender is having a superb season in his side's 4-3-3 formation and lines up against UEFA Champions League dropouts Benfica in the round of 32.
Keep your eyes on this all-action player.
Viktor Fischer, Ajax
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Every time Viktor Fischer plays, he scores (or so it seems).
The teenage Dane is lighting up the Eredivisie with a series of impressive performances for Ajax, and the only thing holding him back is Frank de Boer's careful man management of the prospect.
Isaac Cuenca is cup-tied and can't play a part in de Godenzonen's European campaign, so Fischer should get some sufficient playing time in a competition they'll take with a pinch of salt.
Salomon Rondon, Rubin Kazan
Salomon Rondon is one of the many talents we wish didn't go to Russia—how can we see him week in, week out while he's playing out there?
Malaga were forced to sell due to financial troubles, and Rondon is flourishing for Rubin Kazan. He bagged four goals during the Group Stages of the UEFA Europa League and looks primed to continue in that vein.
What'll be interesting to measure is how the Tatary perform against Atletico Madrid after a two-month winter break.
Mario Suarez, Atletico Madrid
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Atletico Madrid steal the headlines thanks to Radamel Falcao's superb performances, but they've got an underrated engine room at the Vicente Calderon that's well worth your attention.
The pick of the bunch is Mario Suarez, a man who recently won his first cap for Spain against Uruguay and is something of a late bloomer.
He's a tough tackler, calm distributor, never stops running and has an incredible positional sense.
Juan Arango, Borussia Moenchengladbach
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Things didn't start well for Borussia Moenchengladbach this season as they failed to replace key players and fell unceremoniously out of the UEFA Champions League at the earliest stage.
Luuk de Jong isn't the signing they wanted, nor is Granit Xhaka, but you can rely on old-head Juan Arango to provide some excitement and entertainment.
The Venezuelan is the scorer of some truly unbelievable goals and can release a howitzer at any given moment.