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Spanish clubs face Europa League defeats

Madrid, Feb 22: Spanish football clubs Villarreal, Celta Vigo and Athletic Club Bilbao face early exits from the Europa League on Thursday after disappointing results from their first leg Round-of-32 ties a week ago.

Spain has domited the Europa League in recent seasons with Sevilla winning three titles and Atletico Madrid also winning the tourment twice in the last seven years.

However, this season there is a very real risk that none of the three Spanish clubs will to make it into the last 16, reports Xinhua news agency.

Villarreal face an almost impossible task following a 0-4 home defeat to Roma last week. That result leaves Fran Escriba’s side needing little short of a miracle away to the Italians and the question is whether the coach will even bother fielding his strongest 11 or save players for Sunday’s league game at home to Real Madrid.

Celta also have a tough task as they travel to Ukraine to try and overturn a 0-1 deficit against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Although Celta’s task is not as daunting as Villarreal’s and two goals would give them a fighting chance of going through, it is still a big ask for a side that reached the semi-fils of the Spanish King’s Cup and whose players have a lot of football under their belts this season.

Shakhtar are fresh after a winter break and have just returned to competitive action, which should give them an advantage over Eduardo Berizzo’s side.

Bilbao were the only Spanish side to win last week, but their 3-2 victory over APOEL Nicosia was scant baggage for their control of the first leg and leaves them exposed in the return match. (IANS)