MATCHDAY: 6 qualifying places up for grabs in Europa League

A look at what’s happening in the final round of Europa League matches on Thursday:

TIGHTEST GROUP

Napoli, Real Sociedad and AZ Alkmaar enter the final round battling for two qualifying places from the tightest of the 12 groups. A home draw against Real Sociedad would be enough for Napoli, while Sociedad needs a win or to better the result of AZ Alkmaar, which visits already eliminated Rijeka. A win would put AZ Alkmaar in the next round regardless of the result of the other match. Sociedad could be without two of its best players for the match in Italy, as David Silva and Mikel Oyarzabal have been nursing muscle injuries.

SIX SPOTS LEFT

Eighteen teams have already advanced to the knockout stage, meaning there are six spots still up for grabs. Eight more teams drop into the last 32 for being third-place finishers in their Champions League groups. Young Boys and Cluj are battling for the second qualifying spot from Group A when they meet in Switzerland, with Young Boys only needing to avoid defeat. Molde and Rapid Vienna are vying for second place in Group B; Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Sivasspor meet for the right to finish as runner-up in Group I; Wolfsburg hosts Feyenoord in Group K with the final qualifying spot up for grabs.

AUBAMEYANG WARNING

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta insists captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is not guaranteed a starting place as he looks to get the team back to winning ways. Aubameyang has not traveled with the squad for a match against already-eliminated Dundalk, with Arsenal through to the last 32 and assured of top spot in Group B having won its opening five matches. Arsenal is struggling in 15th place in the Premier League, though, with only the current bottom three having scored fewer than Arsenal’s 10 goals. Aubameyang has not scored from open play in the league since the opening weekend. Arteta said he was not tempted to take his captain to Dundalk in an attempt to play him into form and that his recent blip does not mean he has an automatic place in the team. “No one is undroppable at the end of the day,” he said. “You have to find the right players to win football matches but we cannot forget what Auba has done for this club and what he’s done in recent months — not years ago.”

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