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Europa League preview: Testing times for Manchester duo

SoccerNews in UEFA Europa League 7 Mar 2012

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Manchester City’s bid to win the Europa League continues with a trip to Sporting Lisbon, while Manchester United host Athletic Bilbao.

Roberto Mancini’s English Premier League-leading City outfit visit Estadio Jose Alvalade for the first leg of their round-of-16 tie on Thursday.

City have won six consecutive matches in all competitions, and Mancini will undoubtedly be hoping his side can snatch an away goal in Portugal.

With the likes of Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and David Silva all options in attack, the Italian will be confident of scoring at least once.

Ricardo Sa Pinto’s side were surprise 1-0 losers to Vitoria Setubal in Liga Sagres, but are sure to cause problems through the likes of Dutch attacker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who missed Saturday’s clash.

Elsewhere, Manchester United will welcome La Liga outfit Athletic Bilbao to Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are aiming to become just the fourth club to win all three of UEFA’s major trophies as they look to add the Europa League to their trophy cabinet.

While the English champions enter the clash on the back of a strong win over Tottenham in the Premier League, Athletic Bilbao are unbeaten in four matches.

Meanwhile, La Liga giants Valencia host Eredivisie outfit PSV Eindhoven in what is sure to be an entertaining tie.

Unai Emery’s men have been inconsistent this year, while PSV come into the clash after being handed a 6-2 thrashing by Twente on Sunday.

In the Netherlands, AZ Alkmaar take on Francesco Guidolin’s Serie A outfit Udinese at AFAS Stadion.

Unbeaten in five matches – including three scoreless draws – Udinese have responded strongly after a poor start to 2012.

Eredivisie title challengers Twente enter their clash against Bundesliga side Schalke on the back of five straight wins.

But Schalke’s Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has struck six times in the Europa League this season and will threaten Steve McLaren’s side.

In other matches, Atletico Madrid host Turkish side Besiktas and Belgian First Division outfit Standard Liege welcome Bundesliga’s Hannover to Stade Maurice Dufrasne.

Ukrainian outfit Metalist Kharkiv meet Greek champions Olympiakos in the other round-of-16 tie.

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