By FOX Sports staff
Four of the Barclays Premier League's best sides will be in action and while they are all capable of challenging for the title this season, they will have to be careful if they are to avoid an embarassing exit at the first hurdle of the knockout stage.
Liverpool, looking for their first win in four games, have arguably the toughest test as they visit a Zenit St Petersburg side boasting a plethora of Russia internationals, as well as the likes of Brazilian striker Hulk, Portugal internationals Bruno Alves and Danny, as well as Axel Witsel of Belgium.
On Monday, the Reds' inconsistent ways reared its ugly head again as they fell to a 2-0 home loss to West Brom, but midfielder Jordan Henderson believes the trip to Russia provides his side with the perfect opportunity to bounce back.
"We just have to keep going, keep our heads up and bounce back [from the defeat to West Brom]," he said. "We just have to stay positive and think about the next game now which is Zenit in the Europa League on Thursday night.
"We know the European game is important as well but I think every game is important to be honest.
"We will keep improving and make sure we keep going in the right direction.
Tottenham will have home advantage in their favour on Thursday, but that should come as little consolation given they are coming up against Lyon, a side with plenty of European experience and who are currently second in Ligue 1 behind Paris Saint-Germain.
Nonetheless, they do have one of the Premier League's in-form players to call upon in Gareth Bale, who is fast establishing himself as one of the world's best and has netted five goals in his last four games.
And Lyon coach Remi Garde, who used to play for Spurs' bitter rivals Arsenal, has received firsthand information on just who devastating the Wales international can be.
"[Ex-Southampton and Lyon youth director Georges] Prost told me how quick he was then [as a 16-year-old], how much skill he was blessed with even at that age," the Frenchman revealed.
"So it's not a surprise to me to see the top form Gareth has been in. He is the sort of player that we do need to keep an eye on tomorrow [Thursday]."
One new face to this season's competition are Chelsea, who are now in the running after missing out on qualifying for the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League and begin their Europa League campaign with an away game against Sparta Prague.
The trip to the Czech capital will be particularly special for goalkeeper Petr Cech, who used to play for Sparta and admits it will be strange to be in the away dressing room for a change.
"Since I left Sparta Prague in 2002, I have never had a chance to play a Czech team in any competition, not even a friendly," the 30-year-old said. "It's going to be a special moment.
"I am always going there to play for the national team but then I'm in the home dressing room. This time, I will feel at home because I know the stadium very well but I will be a visitor, which will be a strange moment."
Newcastle, England's final representatives, are at home to Metalist Kharkiv.
In one of Thursday's standout clashes, Borussia Monchengladbach, who finished fourth in the Bundesliga last term, entertain Lazio, who will be without injured striker Miroslav Klose.
Still, Gladbach coach Lucien Favre does not believe the Germany international's absence is going to make it much easier for his side.
"Before the game we read everywhere that Klose was Lazio's key player," he told derwesten.de. "We must not make the mistake of taking the game too lightly just because he is not here."
Lazio's Serie A rivals Napoli entertain Czech side Viktoria Plzen, while Inter Milan, who moved up to fourth in Serie A last weekend, host CFR Cluj.
Defending champions Atletico Madrid, who are flying high in Spain's La Liga, have a tricky home game against Rubin Kazan, whose Russian rivals Anzhi Makhachkala are also in action against Hannover.
The BayArena also promises to deliver an enticing clash as Bayer Leverkusen lock horns with Benfica, while Eredivisie giants Ajax are at home to Steaua Bucharest.
Thursday's Europa League Round of 32 Fixtures