UEFA Europa League Preview: Monchengladbach heap pressure on Sevilla
Borussia Monchengladbach defender Alvaro Dominguez Sato believes defending UEFA Europa League champions Sevilla are strongest team remaining in the competition heading into Thursday's opening leg of their round of 32 tie.
Spaniard Dominguez returns to his homeland on Thursday as Sevilla host Monchengladbach at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in the first of two exciting fixtures between the teams, who have won a combined total of five second-tier European club tournaments.
Sevilla lifted their third Europa League/UEFA Cup title in 2014 after triumphing in 2006 and 2007, while Bundesliga outfit Gladbach have won the competition in 1974 and 1979.
Unai Emery's Sevilla only lost one match en route to knockout rounds, finishing a point behind Group G winners Feyenoord.
Gladbach, on the other hand, topped Group A with three wins and three draws.
However, Dominguez has heaped pressure on the Spaniards by claiming they are the team to beat ahead of the likes of Liverpool, Roma, Inter and Wolfsburg.
"They are very clear to me the strongest team that is still in the competition," the 25-year-old is quoted as saying by Bild.
"There is no really outstanding star, but they have top quality in defense, midfield and attack.
"Sevilla defend strong and stable, but then plays fast and with a lot of pressure to the front."
The Sevilla versus Gladbach clash is one of many mouth-watering Europa League showdowns set to take place on Thursday.
Liverpool - eliminated in the Champions League group stages - host Besiktas at Anfield looking to keep their hopes of silverware alive.
Besiktas head to Liverpool full of confidence after edging Bursaspor 3-2 but the Turks have been dealt a blow with goalkeeper Cenk Gonen ruled out for a month due to knee ligament damage.
"Not too many teams can come back after conceding a goal in the 90th minute of the game. But we did it because we believed in ourselves," coach Slaven Bilic said after Demba Ba netted a penalty in the fourth minute of injury time, cancelling out Bursaspor's 90th-minute equaliser on Sunday.
"I am proud of all of them. We hope to repeat this performance against Liverpool."
Roma, Tottenham and PSV Eindhoven all begin their two-legged ties on home soil on Thursday.
Serie A high-flyers Roma welcome Feyenoord to the Italian capital, Tottenham travel to Fiorentina, while PSV go head-to-head with Zenit in Eindhoven.
Wolfsburg will be counting on Dutch striker Bas Dost, who scored four goals in a 5-4 win over Bayer Leverkusen last week, when the Germans tackle Sporting Lisbon.
Celtic and Inter meet for the fourth time in European competition.
Napoli make the trip to Turkey to face Trabzonspor, with Rafael Benitez bidding to become only the second coach to win the Europa League/UEFA Cup for a third time.
Elsewhere, Everton will look to put their domestic woes to one side when they play Young Boys in Switzerland.
Ajax entertain Legia Warsaw, Olympiacos meet Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Athletic Bilbao are on the road at Torino.
Coupe de France champions Guingamp host Dynamo Kiev, Villarreal and Red Bull Salzburg go head-to-head, AaB are at home to Club Brugge, while Anderlecht welcome Dynamo Moscow to Constant Vanden Stock Stadium.