Match Previews

8 UEFA Europa League ties guaranteed to get you out of your seat

As the remaining 32 teams prepare to battle for a place in May's UEFA Europa League Final, we look at the ties sure to get fans out of their seats...

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The Europa League becomes more dramatic, more illustrious and more memorable every year. In 2010, Premier League underdogs Fulham pushed Spanish giants Atletico Madrid to the limit.
In 2012, Marcelo Bielsa's Athletic Bilbao captured Europe's imagination, eventually falling to Atletico Madrid. Benfica then suffered back-to-back final defeats to Chelsea and Sevilla, with the Spanish side going on to stamp their authority on the competition with another success in 2015 - a five-goal thriller against Dnipro.
As this year's tournament reaches the business end with the Round of 32, we've chosen eight games that capture the imagination for their history, diversity and, of course, their fans. Miss them at your peril.

Midtjylland vs Man United

Danish minnows take on the European goliath

In 1999, weeks before Manchester United defeated Bayern Munich in one of the most exciting European finals ever, a new club, FC Midtjylland, was being formed in Jutland. And now this young Danish outfit, whose midfield maestro Tim Sparv supports United, have  their own chance to make history against  the legendary team of Best and Cantona. They want to stage one of the biggest upsets in European history; United want to get their hands on one of the few trophies they’ve never won…

Augsburg vs Liverpool

German newcomers face England’s most successful European side...

The Kop. You'll Never Walk Alone. An English-record five Champions League and three UEFA Cup wins: Liverpool's pedigree is hard to rival. Augsburg, meanwhile, are playing in European football for the first time - but as one of the best-supported clubs in Bavaria, they'll create an event to rival Anfield. Before you assume it'll be a Merseyside walkover, consider this: Jurgen Klopp faced Augsburg ten times as Mainz and Borussia Dortmund manager - but could only muster a total of two wins. It could be close.

Fiorentina vs Spurs

Battle of the cup specialists

Football in Florence has been dated way back to 1400, and the Viola lifted the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1961. There are numerous fan groups, and even the players know about loyalty to the badge: just look at Angel Di Livio, a god in these parts, who stuck with the club after it went bankrupt. Spurs, meanwhile, have also won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup (in 1963) and two UEFA Cups (1972 and 1984), and are staying true to Danny Blanchflower's famous Tottenham motto - the game is about glory - as they impress under stylish Argentine boss Mauricio Pochettino.

Dortmund vs Porto

Two of football’s proudest names clash

Borussia Dortmund are the benchmark when it comes to European fan passion: they boast the best average attendance of any continental side, and their legendary Yellow Wall is famous for its noise, banners and unwavering support. They've got real European pedigree, winning the Champions League in 1997 and reaching the 2013 final. But Porto have a proud history of their own - they have two European Cup wins, as well as the UEFA Cup triumph of 2002-03, and UEFA Europa League glory in Dublin in 2011. Both sides are now looking to write a new chapter.

Galatasaray vs Lazio

Passionate Turks against rampaging Romans

Anyone after a genuinely exhilarating atmosphere needs to sample a match at the Turk Telecom Stadium: Gala fans broke the record for the 'loudest crowd roar at a sports stadium' back in 2011. Lazio fans are some of the few who can rival them: the stalwarts of the Curva Nord at the Stadio Olympico are among Italy's most famous Ultras, and the no.12 shirt has been retired out of respect to 'the 12th man' they represent. Both sides have already won a European trophy: Lazio beat Mallorca to win the 1999 Cup Winners' Cup; Gala defeated Arsenal to win the UEFA Cup a year later. It'll be loud.

Marseille vs Athletic Bilbao

France’s finest fans host Spanish shock merchants

The fans following the port side of Marseille are rightly known as France's most dedicated. Their volume and pride is legendary: thereís even a stand, the Tribune Patrice de Peretti, named after the founder of the Marseille Ultras group. Basil Boli's winner in the 1993 European Cup was the clubís greatest moment, and their current boss, Michel, won the UEFA Cup twice as a player. Athletic, meanwhile, have shown they can pull off a Euro shock - they beat Manchester United back in 2012 ñ and fans flooded the streets after they thrashed Barcelona in last year's Spanish Supercopa. 

Villarreal vs Napoli

Serie A toppers meet the Yellow Submarine

Villarreal have certainly taken to European football: on their Champions League debut, the Spanish side reached the semi-finals after beating Inter Milan (they eventually lost to Arsenal). The Madrigal is a wonderful place, and The Yellow Submarine have shown that there is plenty to enjoy in Spanish football outside the big two. Napoli fans, meanwhile, can get misty-eyed about their legendary line-up featuring Maradona and Careca, which brought home the 1989 UEFA Cup - and in the present day, they relish being top of the Italian table. Can they add Euro glory to domestic dominance? 

Fenerbahce vs Lokomotiv

Turkey and Russia’s super-supporters get together

Fenerbahce are one of Turkey's best-supported sides, and their fans create a terrific atmosphere to rival their Super Lig-winning Galatasaray foes. The reigning champs, managed by Vitor Pereira, will feel that this is a good season to bag the club's first European trophy. Russian Cup holders Lokomotiv Moscow are also chasing their first non-domestic honour, and they have some very special supporters: they even staged a recent game between a fans' group and the Lokomotiv youth team to celebrate the close links between footballers and their followers.

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