MILAN — At least one Italian team will reach the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday, with Roma hosting Fiorentina and looking for a distraction from its domestic woes.
Roma had started the year battling with Juventus for the Serie A title but has fallen 14 points behind the defending champions after losing to Sampdoria 2-0.
A crucial away goal in a 1-1 draw in Florence in the Europa League gives Roma a slender advantage in the second leg, but Fiorentina has already defeated Roma in a knockout competition in the capital this season — 2-0 in the Italian Cup quarterfinals.
Inter Milan, Torino and Napoli are the other Italian teams in the competition, with the latter the only Serie A team to win its first leg — 3-1 over Dynamo Moscow.
Here are some things to know about Thursday's matches in the Europa League:
Andre Schuerrle arrived in Wolfsburg as a World Cup winner and the most expensive signing in the club's history at an estimated 32 million euros ($34 million). So far, he's been largely a flop.
The German forward had a promising start with two assists in his first match after leaving Chelsea, but since then, his form has been dipping.
Schuerrle was pulled at halftime in the 3-1 win over Inter in the home leg, with Wolfsburg's game improving after his departure.
Wolfsburg coach Dieter Hecking said he is behind Schuerrle and is calling for patience, saying "it will come." But Schuerrle got to play only in the last few minutes in Sunday's 3-0 win over Freiburg.
Many are recalling the difficult time Kevin de Bruyne had after arriving in Wolfsburg, also from Chelsea. Now, he is one of the league's most valuable players, with nine goals and 17 assists.
WILL INEXPERIENCE TELL?
Although Torino's victory over Athletic Bilbao in the last round made people sit up and take note, it won't be easy for the Italian team to go any further after losing to Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0 in the first leg.
Torino is unbeaten in 10 European home games but Zenit has won all three of its Europa League matches without conceding since moving into the competition from the Champions League.
The coaches on each side have very different levels of European experience. Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas won the Europa League with FC Porto in 2011 and has also managed Chelsea and Tottenham in UEFA competition, while Giampiero Ventura is in his first campaign in Europe — at the age of 67.
"Our fans give us hope for Thursday's match, with their support we can do it," Torino defender Pontus Jansson said. "You can recover from two goals down.
"Before the return match against Athletic Bilbao everyone though it would be difficult for us to go through, too, and we managed it, so we have to be optimistic."
Defending champion Sevilla will be looking to carry its Spanish league momentum into the match with Villarreal after beating Elche 3-0 on Sunday.
Sevilla, which has a 3-1 advantage from the first leg against Villarreal, is fifth in the Spanish league, one place above Villarreal.
Sevilla has won 10 and lost none of the 14 league games it has played at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium this season.
"When you're winning games you can correct any errors you make in your game with more willingness and confidence," said Sevilla forward Carlos Bacca, who has scored 40 goals for the team since joining in 2013. "It is important to make yourself strong at home, where you make others respect you."
The second leg between Dynamo Kiev and Everton will be played in front of a restricted crowd after the Ukrainian club was punished for crowd trouble at the Olympic Stadium in a previous round.
Part of the stadium in Kiev will be closed for the match, which Everton goes into with a 2-1 lead.
Everton has had a difficult season, but is showing signs of improvement after following up the first-leg win over Dynamo by beating Newcastle 3-0 in the Premier League to move clear of relegation trouble.
Dynamo is at the top of the Ukrainian league.