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Europa League preview: Holders Atletico go to Hapoel

Atletico Madrid will get their Europa League title defence underway in Tel Aviv, while Liverpool seek an elusive victory on Thursday.

Atletico have won the tournament twice in the past three years and are one of the favourites to reach this season’s decider in Amsterdam on May 15.

Having accounted for Chelsea in the Super Cup last month, Diego Simeone’s side will travel to Israel in search of their 14th consecutive win in European competition in their Group B opener at Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Portuguese side Academica will play host to Czech outfit Viktoria Plzen in the group’s other fixture.

In Group A, Liverpool, one of Europe’s most successful clubs, will attempt to bounce back from their slow start in the English Premier League at Young Boys in Bern.

Brendan Rodgers’ men are languishing toward the bottom of the domestic table with just two points from four matches and are desperately looking for form ahead of Sunday’s league clash against Manchester United.

In Italy, Udinese welcome big-spending Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in the other Group A match.

Newcastle United must back up from their 2-2 league draw against Everton with a trip to Portugal to take on Maritimo.

Alan Pardew’s men had Demba Ba to thank for securing them a draw at Goodison Park on Monday, and will be hoping to make a good start to their Europa League campaign.

Bordeaux and Club Brugge do battle in France in the other game in Group D.

Inter Milan deserve favouritism in Group H ahead of their encounter at home to Rubin Kazan, while Azerbaijan’s Neftci may have to cope with a hostile environment at Partizan Belgrade.

Andre Villas-Boas’ Tottenham face a crucial first-up clash at home to Lazio in Group J, while Panathinaikos make the trip to Slovenian outfit Maribor.

Borussia Moenchengladbach start their Group C campaign with a trip to Cyprus, where they will face AEL Limassol.

In what is sure to be a tightly contested group, Turkish side Fenerbahce welcome Ligue 1 outfit Marseille.

Elsewhere, Stuttgart host Steaua Bucharest and Molde travel to Copenhagen in Group E, while Eredivisie giants PSV Eindhoven visit Ukraine’s Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Napoli welcome Sweden’s AIK in Group F.

Lyon host Sporting Prague and Israel’s Ironi Kiryat Shmona visit Athletic Bilbao in Group I, as Group G sees Basel make the trip to Sporting Braga and Genk host Videoton of Hungary.

In Group K, Bayer Leverkusen take on Metalist and Rapid Wien meet Rosenborg, while Group L will see Levante host Helsingborg and Hannover visit Twente.

Wed 19 Sep, 2012
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