PARIS, France, Dec 11 – Last season’s runners-up Arsenal and Steven Gerrard’s Rangers have their sights fixed on the Europa League knockout phase Thursday with 19 clubs competing for the final 11 places.
Interim Arsenal boss Freddie Ljungberg will look to lead the Gunners into the last 32 after Unai Emery was sacked following last month’s 2-1 home loss to Eintracht Frankfurt.
Monday’s 3-1 victory at West Ham ended the club’s worst winless run since 1977 and Arsenal just require a point at Standard Liege in Belgium to progress from Group F.
Rangers missed out on their first major silverware in almost a decade at the weekend following an agonising 1-0 defeat by Celtic in the Scottish League Cup final.
Gerrard’s side dominated large parts of the game but were unable to find a way past an inspired Fraser Forster, who saved a second-half penalty from Alfredo Morelos.
Rangers are top of Group G and will advance if they avoid a second defeat of the competition to Swiss champions Young Boys.
“We’ve got a huge game on Thursday and there’s no better game to bounce back,” Gerrard said.
“We have to soak it up, remember it and be ready to go and give ourselves another opportunity. That type of performance will get us where we want to get to.
“It’s raw right now but this is football at the top. We’ll suffer and then we’ll bounce back.”
Unbeaten Celtic have wrapped up top spot in Group E ahead of their trip to Romania’s CFR Cluj, who are second in the section.
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could well stick with a similar side to the one that lost 2-1 in Astana with qualification already assured.
The Norwegian fielded a starting team in Kazakhstan with an average age of 22 years and 26 days — United’s youngest ever in major European competition.
They lead AZ Alkmaar, who host leaders Ajax in the Dutch league this weekend, by a point in Group L going into their showdown at Old Trafford.
Twice former European champions Porto as well as Italian duo Lazio and Roma and Bundesliga leaders Borussia Moenchengladbach are also still bidding to nail down a qualifying spot.
Groups A-F (kick-offs 8:55pm)
APOEL (CYP) v Sevilla (ESP)
Qarabag (AZE) v Dudelange (LUX)
FC Copenhagen (DEN) v Malmo (SWE)
Dynamo Kiev (UKR) v Lugano (SUI)
FC Basel (SUI) v Trabzonspor (TUR)
Getafe (ESP) v Krasnodar (RUS)
LASK (AUT) v Sporting Lisbon (POR)
PSV Eindhoven (NED) v Rosenborg (NOR)
CFR Cluj (ROM) v Celtic (SCO)
Rennes (FRA) v Lazio (ITA)
Standard Liege (BEL) v Arsenal (ENG)
Eintracht Frankfurt (GER) v Vitoria Guimaraes (POR)
Groups G-L (kick-offs 11pm)
Rangers (SCO) v Young Boys (SUI)
Porto (POR) v Feyenoord (NED)
Espanyol (ESP) v CSKA Moscow (RUS)
Ludogorets (BUL) v Ferencvaros (HUN)
Wolfsburg (GER) v Saint-Etienne (FRA)
Gent (BEL) v Olexandriya (UKR)
Borussia Moenchengladbach (GER) v Istanbul Basaksehir (TUR)
Roma (ITA) v Wolfsberg (AUT)
Wolves (ENG) v Besiktas (TUR)
Slovan Bratislava (SVK) v Braga (POR)
Manchester United (ENG) v AZ Alkmaar (NED)
Partizan Belgrade (SRB) v Astana (KAZ)