Sevilla favourites to progress to Europa League semis

Madrid: Spanish football clubs Sevilla, Athletic Club Bilbao and Villarreal are in Europa League action on Thursday night with at least one of the three guaranteed a place in the semi-finals of the competition.

Defending champions Sevilla are favourites to book their place in the last four as they defend a 2-1 first leg lead against Athletic Club in front of their home fans in the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium where they have lost just one of their last 18 matches, reports Xinhua.

Sevilla coach Unai Emery rested key players as his side slipped to a 1-2 defeat to struggling Valencia at the La Liga weekend and will field his strongest possible side against the Basques.

The coach has even taken his team out of Sevilla to prepare for the tie in order to avoid the party atmosphere that exists in the city during this week as it celebrates its traditional April fair.

Athletic will have important players out through injury as they set about their task of scoring at least two goals in order to go through.

Athletic central defender Aymeric Laporte is out for the season as he recovers from a broken ankle, while striker Sabin Merino will miss out with a torn hamstring and Inaki Williams is likely to join them on the sidelines after straining a muscle while scoring his side's winning goal against Rayo Vallecano at the weekend.

The third Spanish side looking to qualify is Villarreal who defend a 2-1 first leg advantage away against Sparta Prague.

With his side looking almost certain to finish fourth in the La Liga table, Villarreal coach Marcelino Garcia will field his strongest available 11.

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