Many of the Europa League last 32 clashes would not look out of place in the knockout stages of the Champions League. This is not surprising considering eight teams have dropped into the competition from the senior European club competition. There will be plenty of bets supporting these teams as they bid to repeat Shakhtar Donetsk’s achievement of last year when they secured the cup as a consolation for missing out on theChampions League.

Tournament favourites Liverpool missed out on the Champions League knockout stages for the first time since 2003/04. They now face Unirea Urziceni and can be expected to hold a decisive advantage after the first leg on 18th February.

The Reds have turned a corner domestically, although last night’s defeat against Arsenal put an end to their good run. Unirea impressed in pushing Sevilla and Stuttgart close in theChampions League and arrive in the Europa League as the highest-ranked drop-outs, but the Romanians face a tough task at Anfield.

Rubin Kazan won only one match in the Champions League group stage but should be backed to take a narrow first leg advantage against Hapoel Tel Aviv, who topped Group C unbeaten but are trailing Maccabi Haifa by 12 points domestically.

Wolfsburg stunned German football by winning the Bundesliga last term but have struggled to repeat that form this time around, slipping into the bottom half of the table. They travel to Villarreal, who are experiencing a similar mid-season campaign in Spain. This one might be level after the first leg.

The glamour tie of the round pits Ajax against Juventus, who were rocked by missing out on the latter stages of the Champions League. Either of these teams could go all the way and make up for domestic campaigns that have so far been disappointing.

With Juventus seventh in Serie A you should bet on Europa League success being something of a priority for the side.

Atletico Madrid should be backed to take a decisive lead against Galatasaray, while Standard Liege and Marseille should complete good first legs for theChampions League drop-outs by starting well against Red Bull Salzburg and Copenhagen respectively.

The betting Europa League bookmakers are currently offering makes Liverpool favourites to lift the trophy, but they will have to see off some tough sides if they are togo all the way.

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