London: Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham are among the teams relying on other results for Europa League progress and it isn’t quite clear which way they want things to go when the group stage concludes this week.
Although the competition offers the clubs the realistic chance of a trophy, both know elimination would leave them free to focus on more pressing domestic matters.
PSG is tied with Montpellier at the top of the French league, while Spurs are in contention for a top-four finish in England.
PSG hosts Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday needing to better Salzburg’s result at Slovan Bratislava if it is to progress ahead of the Austrian club. Tottenham can only advance Thursday if it wins at Shamrock Rovers and Rubin Kazan loses at PAOK.
With 15 teams having advanced, nine remaining berths are up for grabs this week — with 19 clubs in contention to fill them.
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has made clear his view of Europe’s second-tier club competition by consistently fielding second-string lineups of reserves and youth players. A full-strength Spurs side has taken the club to third in the Premier League but the Europa League side is on the verge of elimination after back-to-back defeats to Rubin and PAOK.
PAOK has already clinched progress and Rubin needs only to avoid defeat to guarantee a place in the knockout stages, where eight sides including Manchester United and Manchester City will enter the competition following their elimination from the Champions League.
Even defeat could take Rubin through since Tottenham also needs victory and a five-goal swing to progress. With Spurs’ slim Premier League title hopes having been further dented by the end of their 11-game unbeaten streak in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Stoke, Redknapp is unlikely to fret too much if his team goes out or significantly strengthen his lineup to prevent it.
The likes of Danny Rose, Harry Kane and Jake Livermore are all likely to play ahead of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Emmanuel Adebayor and Scott Parker.
Chasing its first French league title since 1993-94, PSG is in a similar position on Wednesday.
PSG will be missing striker Guillaume Hoarau and midfielders Clement Chantome and Blaise Matuidi against Bilbao, which has already advanced.
Javier Pastore is still out of form, with the €42 million playmaker without a goal in six games, but Nene has been playing well recently and Kevin Gameiro ended an 11-game scoring drought in Saturday’s 1-0 win at Sochaux.
That was also PSG’s first clean sheet in six games after conceding nine in the previous five.
“It had been a while since we didn’t concede a goal,” coach Antoine Kombouare said. “It’s the best way to prepare the Bilbao match on Wednesday. Victories give us a lot of confidence.”
Winger Jeremy Menez said PSG should at least try to advance.
“It would be a failure if we get knocked out, considering our squad,” Menez said.
Also Wednesday, Lazio needs to pick up more points in Group D against Sporting Lisbon than FC Vaslui manage at FC Zurich to edge the Romanian team to the next round.
Lazio struggled against Lecce at the weekend before winning 3-2 for a second straight victory, but goalkeeper Federico Marchetti is out injured and defenders Giuseppe Biava and Abdoulay Konko are also doubts.
“Our unity is our strength,” coach Edy Reja said. “There’s the right rapport.”
Udinese needs only to avoid defeat to visiting Celtic on Thursday to advance from Group I alongside 2010 champion Atletico Madrid, which can clinch top spot with victory over eliminate Rennes.
Victory for Celtic would take the Scottish side through courtesy of a superior head-to-head record against Udinese.
Udinese surprised many last season by finishing fourth and the unfashionable club was expected to struggle after losing key midfielder Gokhan Inler to Napoli and striker Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona.
But Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin, who said as recently as Thursday that his main aim remains avoiding relegation, has maneuvered his team into contention for Italy’s Serie A title.
“It’s great. It’s a magical period for us which we’ll try to make last as long as possible,” Guidolin said. “Udinese have done well these past few years but not like this past year and a half.
“To be doing better than last year having sold such key players surprised everyone, but the explanation lies in the fact that we know each other better.”
Udinese has won all seven of its Serie A home games and is also unbeaten in the Europa League at the Stadio Friuli.
Also Thursday, AZ Alkmaar can guarantee progress with a win over Metalist Kharkiv.