English clubs eye Europa League knockout stage
Crucial games in Europa League as teams look to qualify for knockout stage
English Premier League trio Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle will be aiming to secure passage to the Europa League knockout stages with a game in hand today.
While the English clubs have had modest starts to their domestic campaign and are all in unfamiliar mid-table positions, their fortunes have been brighter in continental action as they close in on the last-32 stage.
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has finally put the Anfield giants on the right track after a disastrous start to the season and a win at home against Swiss hopefuls Young Boys will guarantee the club their ongoing quest for a first European trophy since their famous Champions League win over AC Milan in 2005.
Tottenham face a sterner test of their pedigree as they travel to the Olympic stadium in Rome for a tie against unbeaten Lazio.
A win in the Italian capital and failure for Slovenian club Maribor to beat Panathinaikos in Athens will also put under-pressure manager Andre Villa-Boas and his North London side into the next round.
Newcastle, who won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1969 before the competition became the Uefa Cup in 1971 and then the Europa League in 2009, have a chance to revive their form at St James' Park, where they have lost consecutive league matches against West Ham and Swansea.
Manager Alan Pardew will more than likely rotate his squad despite the club's struggles, but the bookmakers will still make them strong favourites against Portugal's Maritimo and a victory will guarantee them qualification from group D.
High-flying Bordeaux, who reached the final of the 1996 Uefa Cup but lost to a Bayern Munich side coached by Franz Beckenbauer, will also advance from the group with victory at Belgium's Club Brugge.
Defending champions Atletico Madrid, who saw their record 16-game winning streak broken at Portuguese club Academica de Coimbra on matchday four, will continue their quest for a repeat triumph at home to Hapoel Tel Aviv.