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Preview: Zorya Luhansk – Athletic Bilbao

Qualification for the next round is at stake in this final Group J clash. A draw is enough for Athletic Bilbao to qualify for the next round, though a win will mean the Basque side can win the group – as long as Ostersunds drop points at Hertha. Meanwhile, Zorya Luhansk need a win if they are to have a chance of progressing.

 

Flashscore presents the key facts before the match:

Bilbao are seeking a sixth participation in the UEFA Europa League (EL) round of 32, with the hope of reaching the final and improving on their best EL/UEFA up appearance (‘76-77 and ‘11-12 runners-up). Raúl García, now playing for Bilbao, was a EL winner with Atlético Madrid during the ‘09-10 season.

The only ever H2H between these two teams was the reverse fixture earlier in the campaign. It was a memorable match for the Ukrainian side as they managed to beat the Basque team (1-0 away) and hand Bilbao their only defeat in their last nine European matches played at the San Mamés.

After an irregular start for The Lions with a draw (0-0 at Hertha) and the shock loss versus Zorya Luhansk, their tireless striker Aritz Aduriz is now fired up with four goals in his last three matches.

Bilbao’s unexpected knock-out in the Copa del Rey against Segunda División B Formentera, was quickly forgotten after a superb draw versus Real Madrid in LaLiga last weekend (0-0). Now, the Basque side will be hoping to maintain that momentum and advance to the EL play-offs.

Unlike last year’s EL appearance for Luhansk in the EL – in which they were unable to qualify to the round-of-32 (D2, L4) – this campaign looks brighter for the Ukrainians and the chances are good that they will progress to the next round.

The record books say that Bilbao have never won a game during matchday six in the EL, with two losses in the first two and three draws in their previous three.

Neither of the teams are performing as expected this season. Bilbao are out of the Copa del Rey, and sit 16th in La Liga, just four points above relegation. As for Luhansk, they sit sixth in their domestic league – one point above the relegation play-offs. The EL is great opportunity for both sides to build some confidence and form that will hopefully, for them, turn around their season going into the New Year.

 

Missing players

FK Zorya Luhansk: V. Kalitvintsev (knee injury), V. Pryima (injury), E. Opanasenko (doubtful), A. Pylyavsky (doubtful)

Athletic Bilbao: Benat (injury), I. Muniain (knee injury), I. Undabarrena (knee injury), Y. Alvarez (doubtful), A. Iturraspe (doubtful), O. de Marcos (doubtful).