On Thursday four Eredivisie clubs are in Europa League play-off action as they look to make the group stages of the competition with the first leg of their ties.

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It is important for Netherlands football that as many Eredivisie clubs as possible reach the Europa League group stages, with the nation sliding down the UEFA coefficient’s list. Netherlands have slid behind Ukraine into 9th place, and if the fall continues there is a risk Netherlands could lose their 2nd Champions League spot, and an extra Europa League spot in the future.

With Groningen already knocked out by Aberdeen this season, PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord, Twente, and PEC Zwolle have been given the task of flying the Netherlands flag in the competition. Below are previews for each of the matches.

PSV Eindhoven v Shakhtyor Salihorsk

Currently top of the Eredivisie, PSV will look to continue their good start to the season against Belarussian side Shakhtyor Salihorsk at the Philips Stadion on Thursday. Phillip Cocu’s side dispatched Austrian’s St Polten in the last round, and should similarly have no problems against Salihorsk, who came 2nd in the Belarus Premier League last season.

In the previous round Salihorsk dispatched Belgian side Zulte Waregem 7-4 on aggregate, but their opponents were reduced to ten men in the first leg, and PSV will be confident of progress to the next round. PSV have been scoring for fun so far this season, and with Memphis Depay on terrific form, they should breeze into the group stages of the competition.

Jetro Willems may make his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury, but there are doubts surrounding Santiago Arias, who missed training on Wednesday.

Possible PSV line-up: Zoet, Brenet, Tamata, Rekik, Bruma, Hiljemark, Maher, Wijnaldum, Locadia, De Jong, Depay

Out of all the Dutch sides PSV have been handed the kindest draw, and with the first leg in Netherlands, they should be looking to put the tie to bed before traveling to Belarus next week.

Prediction: PSV Eindhoven 3-0 Shakhtyor Salihorsk

Qarabag v Twente

Twente make their first appearance in Europe this season, but face an adventure into the unknown as they travel to face Azerbaijani champions Qarabag, who drop into the Europa League after a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Red Bull Salzburg.

Twente have had a disappointing start to the Eredivisie campaign, with two draws, but with new signing Hakim Ziyech set to make his debut after signing from Heerenveen last week, Alfred Schreuder’s side will be confident of a good first leg result in Azerbaijan.

Qarabag have never made it to the Europa League group stages, while the club have also had a disappointing start to their league with one point earned from two matches. However Qarabag are strong at their home ground, having lost only one of their last 14 competitive matches at the Tofiq Bəhramov adına Respublika stadion, and they will be a challenge for Twente. A familiar name will line up in attack for Qarabag, with former NEC, and Utrecht player Leroy George a key member of their squad since joining last year.

Possible Twente Line-up: Marsman, Martina, Koppers, Bengtsson, Lachman, Mokotjo, Ebecilio, Ziyech, Mokhtar, Kusk, Castaignos

It will be fascinating to see how Twente line up with Ziyech in the midfield, and his inclusion should see the likes of Kasper Kusk, and Luc Castaignos flourish. However Qarabag are a tough side, and Twente may settle for a point, especially if they can net a crucial away goal.

Prediction: Qarabag 1-1 Twente

Zorya Luhansk v Feyenoord

After dropping down from the Champions League, Feyenoord begin their Europa League campaign with a tough trip to face Zorya Luhansk in Ukraine. The match will be played in Kiev, instead of Luhansk,  due to the political unrest in the country.

Fred Rutten’s side may have earned four points from two league games this season, but they have been far from convincing, and an improvement will be needed if they are to come away from Ukraine with a good result. Zorya qualified for the Europa League after finishing 7th in the Ukrainian Premier League last season, while they reached the play-off stage after seeing off Molde from Norway in the last round.

Feyenoord are still without new signing Colin Kazim-Richards, who was left back in Rotterdam, which means Mitchell Te Vrede, who has netted three in four games, will once again start up front. Rutten will be hoping for improved performances from wingers Ruben Schaken, and Jean Paul Boetius, who have so far started the season off the pace.

Possible Feyenoord Line-up: Mulder, Wilkshire, Kongolo, Van Beek, Mathijsen, Clasie, Vilhena, Immers, Schaken, Boetius, Te Vrede

Zorya may be playing in their first Europa League campaign, and they should not be taken lightly, but Feyenoord should have enough quality to see of their opponents over two legs. A score draw in Ukraine will be a very good result going into the second leg in Rotterdam next week.

Prediction: Zorya 1-1 Feyenoord

PEC Zwolle v Sparta Prague

PEC Zwolle are set to enter a European competition for the first time in their history, with Czech giants Sparta Prague the visitors to the IJsseldelta Stadion on Thursday.

Ron Jans side qualified for the Europa League after hammering Ajax in the KNVB Cup final last season, and after a great start to this campaign, which has seen them win both league matches, and win the Johan Cruijff Schaal after another win against Ajax, PEC Zwolle will fear no one.

Sparta Prague were once again champions of the Czech league last season, but are in the Europa League after being defeated by Swedish side Malmo in the Champions League qualifiers. The Czech side are full of talented players, and PEC Zwolle will have to be particularly wary of midfielder Josef Husbauer, and striker David Lafata, who between them netted 34 league goals last season.

PEC Zwolle will have their new Czech striker Tomas Necid starting up front, and he will be eager to down Sparta, who were rivals of his former club Slavia Prague.

Possible PEC Zwolle line-up: Boer, Van Polen, Van Hintum, Van der Werff, Broerse, Rienstra, Saymak, Drost, Lukoki, Thomas, Necid

Thursday will be a historic day in the history for PEC Zwolle, and after starting the season on fire, the club should be confident of winning against Sparta Prague, who although they are a good time, are not as formidable an opponent as they would have been a few years ago.

Prediction: PEC Zwolle 2-1 Sparta Prague.


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