Europa League 2013-14: Key Fixtures, Predictions and Stars Likely to Shine

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 12, 2013

KIEV, UKRAINE - OCTOBER 03:  Andriy Yarmolenko of FC Dynamo Kyiv in action during the UEFA Champions League group stage match between FC Dynamo Kyiv and GNK Dinamo Zagreb at the Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex on October 3, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Genya Savilov/EuroFootball/Getty Images)
EuroFootball/Getty Images

Thursday's Europa League schedule signals the end of European tournament football for 2013, and if ever there was a time to make an impact, now would be it.

All 48 clubs will be in action as the curtain comes down on the group phase of this season's competition. Eighteen of those sides have already guaranteed themselves a spot in the next round.

That leaves just six places in the round of 32 to fight for, the other eight teams coming from the Champions League third-place runners-up spots. 

Prior to Thursday's action, read on for a breakdown of which players and matches are most worthy of one's attention, accompanied with a full list of predictions. 

Europa League Thursday Predictions
St Gallen vs. Swansea CityDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET1-2
Valencia vs. Kuban KrasnodarDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET1-1
Dinamo Zagreb vs. Ludogorets RazgradDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET0-2
PSV Eindhoven vs. ChornomoretsDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET2-2
Standard Liege vs. ElfsborgDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET2-1
SV Salzburg vs. EsbjergDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET3-2
NK Maribor vs. Wigan AthleticDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET1-2
Zulte-Waregem vs. FK Rubin KazanDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET1-3
Fiorentina vs. Dnipro DnipropetrovskDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET2-2
Pandurii Targu-Jiu vs. Paços de FerreiraDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET0-1
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Apoel NicosiaDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET2-1
Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs. BordeauxDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET2-2
Dynamo Kiev vs. Rapid ViennaDec. 128:05 p.m. GMT/3:05 p.m. ET2-0
FC Thun vs. Racing GenkDec. 128:05 p.m. GMT/3:05 p.m. ET2-1
Estoril vs. LiberecDec. 128:05 p.m. GMT/3:05 p.m. ET1-2
SC Freiburg vs. Sevilla FCDec. 128:05 p.m. GMT/3:05 p.m. ET2-3
Guimaraes vs. LyonDec. 128:05 p.m. GMT/3:05 p.m. ET1-3
Real Betis vs. RijekaDec. 128:05 p.m. GMT/3:05 p.m. ET1-0
Apollon Limassol vs. Legia WarsawDec. 128:05 p.m. GMT/3:05 p.m. ET2-1
Lazio vs. TrabzonsporDec. 128:05 p.m. GMT/3:05 p.m. ET3-2
Sheriff Tiraspol vs. TromsoDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET1-1
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Anzhi MakhachkalaDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET2-0
Maccabi Haifa vs. Shakhter KaragandyDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET2-1
PAOK Salonika vs. AZ AlkmaarDec. 126 p.m. GMT/1 p.m. ET3-2


Key Fixtures and Players to Watch

Maribor vs. Wigan Athletic 

RoslerBen Hoskins/Getty Images

Uwe Rosler takes over his first European fixture as Wigan Athletic manager this week, the German having taken over at the DW Stadium last weekend following Owen Coyle's departure.

The Latics triumphed 3-1 when they last faced their Slovenian opponents, but this weekend holds unknown promise with Rosler now at the helm.

The former Brentford boss comes into the campaign with his side needing all three points if they're to leapfrog Zulte Waregem into second place and advance to the round of 32.

The Belgian outfit play hosts to Rubin Kazan and face a good chance of dropping points. Regardless, Wigan need to recreate some of their heroics from earlier in the season in order to remain in Europa League contention.

Prediction: Maribor 1-2 Wigan Athletic 


Andriy Yarmolenko vs. Rapid Wien

A key figure not just for Dynamo Kiev but for the Ukraine national side, too, Andriy Yarmolenko has gradually acclimated to his status as one of his nation's most prominent stars.

Just a point ahead of Rapid Wien, Dynamo need only a draw in order to guarantee their place in the next stage of the tournament.

Yarmolenko already reigns as the club's top scorer in European competition this term with four goals, and the Ukrainian giants will need all their finer assets shining by example if they're to seal their fate.


PAOK vs. AZ Alkmaar

Both PAOK and AZ Alkmaar have already sewn up their spots in the next round of this season's Europa League, but the battle is very much on for a seeded entry in the round of 32.

Tied on 11 points apiece and each boasting a goal difference of plus-four, one couldn't hope to see the pair in tighter circumstances as they head into one very promising final clash.

PAOK have been Group L's top scorers this season with eight goals but have conceded more in kind. On the other hand, AZ haven't scored as many but the Dutch giants have been more defensively capable, leaking just two.

Prediction: PAOK 3-2 AZ Alkmaar


Olcan Adin vs. Lazio

Joint-top scorer in this season's Europa League with five goals to his name, Olcan Adin will strive to pitch his tally above Jermain Defoe's on Thursday evening when Trabzonspor make the trip to Lazio.

NICOSIA, CYPRUS - SEPTEMBER 19:  Olcan Adin of Trabzonspor AS in action during the UEFA Europa Leaque group stage match between Apollon Limassol FC and Trabzonspor AS held on September 19, 2013 at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia, Cyprus. (Photo by Sakis Savvid
EuroFootball/Getty Images

The Turkish midfielder has scored in each of his past three Europa League outings for Trabzonspor and will seek to do what he could not the last time he faced Lazio by getting on the scoresheet once more.

The Turkish giants need only a draw to ensure they finish at the top of their pool and head into Thursday's action as the tournament's most prolific side, netting 13 goals in total thus far.


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