KEY MATCHES FOR SPANISH CLUBS IN EUROPA LEAGUE

Three Spanish football clubs, Athletic Club Bilbao, Villarreal and Celta Vigo are in Europa League action on Thursday night with key matches as they look to qualify for the knockout stages. After defeats in their two away matches to date, Bilbao have a must win game at home against Belgian outfit Genk, reports Xinhua. The Basques will look for revenge for the 0-2 defeat they suffered in Belgium a fortnight ago in possibly their worst performance of the season. Coach Ernesto Valverde has a full squad to choose from and will hope the return of young central defender Yeray and veteran striker Aritz Aduriz after ankle injuries will give his team the edge.

Villarreal may have seen an 11-game unbeaten run come to an end away against Eibar in La Liga on Sunday, but a home win against Turkish side Osmanlispor would keep the side coached by Fran Escriba in the driving seat of Group L. Villarreal will be looking forward to extend their eight-game winning streak at home in the Europa League. Their last home defeat for Villarreal in the Europa League was 1-3 against Sevilla in March 2015. Since then, Villarreal won their eight home games, including seven clashes in the past season, reports Efe. Villarreal's success this season has been based on a solid defence, although the return of forward Cedric Bakambu after an early season injury has helped to add pace and firepower, which should be too much for their rivals to cope with on Thursday.

Celta Vigo are second in group G, but face a difficult trip to Amsterdam to play group leaders Ajax. The Dutch side is no longer the giants of European football it used to be but showed a fortnight ago in Vigo it still has the capacity to hurt Celta, who twice came from behind in an entertaining 2-2 draw. Celta need to avoid defeat in their trip to the Netherlands if they are to have a realistic chance of finishing top of their group.

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