Struggling in Champions League, Italian teams in good shape to qualify in Europa League

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MANCHESTER, England — While Italian teams struggle to advance in the Champions League, Serie A could have a clean sweep of representatives in the knockout stage of the Europa League after the fifth round of group games.

Fiorentina is one of four teams to have qualified for the last 32 of Europe's secondary club competition with two games to spare. Wins for fellow Italian clubs Inter Milan and Napoli on Thursday will put them through and Torino could also progress with a victory.

It's a different story for Italy in the Champions League, where the fates of Juventus and Roma — the country's top two teams — will only be settled in their final group games.

Former champions Sevilla and Tottenham are among the many teams who could also progress in the Europa League on Thursday.

Here are some things to know about the next-to-last round of group games:


BIRTHDAY BOY

Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini will be looking to celebrate his 50th birthday on Thursday by guiding the team into the last 32.

It is a tough first week for Mancini in his second spell in charge of Inter, whose Europa League match against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk is sandwiched between the Milan derby — which it drew 1-1 — and a trip to title-chasing Roma in Serie A.

Inter is the unbeaten leader in Group F with two wins and two draws, and only needs a point to guarantee a top-two finish.

Mancini, who says it will take him several matches to get to know his players properly, must watch the match from the stands as he is serving a touchline ban picked up during his time at Galatasaray in the Champions League.

Torino plays Club Brugge in Group B. A win or a draw at Sparta Prague will put Napoli through in Group I.


SEVILLA TRAVELS LIGHT

Seeking a fourth UEFA Cup/Europa League title in 10 years, unbeaten defending champion Sevilla is at the top of Group G and will advance as group winner by beating Feyenoord.

Sevilla coach Unai Emery travels to the Netherlands with a weakened left flank as Timothee Tremoulinas and Fernando Navarro are injured, while the midfield is depleted by the absence of Vicente Iborra (ankle) and Alexei Vidal (rested).

Sevilla is looking to bounce back from a 5-1 loss at Barcelona in the Spanish league.

"The club had been on an extraordinary streak, but there have to be rough patches and we're here to lift ourselves back up," Sevilla president Jose Castro said.


LONG TIME COMING

It took 12 matches for Nicklas Bendtner to score his first Bundesliga goal for Wolfsburg. The Denmark and former Arsenal striker was slow settling down in at his new club but seems to be on the right track now and is getting more playing time.

Unfortunately, his goal came in the 3-2 loss to Schalke that ended Wolfsburg's run of eight straight wins.

"Our self-confidence remains intact," Bendtner said ahead of Wolfsburg's match against Everton, the top two in Group H.

The winner is sure of advancing.

Borussia Moenchengladbach, Wolfsburg's Bundesliga rival, will also reach the last-32 with a win at Villarreal in Group A.

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