Big guns look to bounce back in Europa

Genoa's trip to Valencia is the pick of the matches in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday evening, while a host of big-name clubs are looking to bounce back from surprise defeats in their opening games.

The revamped version of the UEFA Cup kicked off a fortnight ago, with Genoa stealing a march on Group B rivals Valencia by beating Slavia Prague 2-0 at home while the Spanish heavyweights were being held to a 1-1 draw at Lille. Both sides go into their meeting at the Mestalla with enviable records in European competition.

Valencia, UEFA Cup champions in 2004, are on a 13-match unbeaten streak in continental tournaments, while Genoa have not lost away from home in UEFA competition since a defeat to Real Oviedo in September 1991. Genoa, currently sixth in Serie A, and Valencia, seventh in La Liga, were two of the pre-tournament favourites and the Spanish side's Dutch defender Hedwiges Maduro anticipates a tactical tussle.

"It's important, because we are playing at home and we must win the game," said the 24-year-old. "Otherwise we will have one point and they will have six, so it's an important match. They are going to be waiting for us to make mistakes, and I think it will be a little bit like a chess match. But we are also going to attack, because we want to win."

Upset results
The Europa League has garnered headlines due to the trialling of extra officials behind the goal-line at each end of the pitch, but the tournament's opening day was also notable for a series of shock results. Italian giants Roma went down 2-0 at Swiss underdogs Basel in Group E, while their city rivals Lazio were undone by an injury-time Marc Janko winner in a 2-1 defeat at home to FC Salzburg in Group G.

Both sides face opposition from the capital of Bulgaria on Thursday, with Roma hosting CSKA Sofia and Lazio visiting Levski Sofia. German league leaders Hamburg will attempt to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat at Rapid Vienna when they host Israeli side Hapoel Tel-Aviv, who came from behind to beat Celtic 2-1 in their Group C opener.

Rapid's trip to Celtic Park on Thursday has been mired in controversy after the Austrians announced plans to wear a special red strip to commemorate a fiery clash between the sides in the 1984 European Cup Winners' Cup.

Elsewhere, Premier League representatives Everton travel to Belarus to play BATE Borisov, while last season's UEFA Cup runners-up Werder Bremen visit Athletic Bilbao in Group L. Finally, Toulouse meet Club Brugge in Group J.

The Europa League's group phase sees 12 groups of four teams face off in a round-robin format, with the top two from each group qualifying for a place in the knockout round alongside the eight third-placed teams from the Champions League group stage.