MADRID, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Four Spanish clubs are in Europa League action on Thursday and none of them have easy rivals as they look to take a big step toward the last 16 of the tournament.
Sevilla have struggled for form at the start of 2019 and the 5-time winners have a difficult game in Rome where they have to face Lazio.
Sevilla coach Pablo Machin has taken his strongest squad to Italy, including defender Gabriel Mercado, who had been struggling with a slight injury on Tuesday.
Betis' trip to face Rennes got off to an inauspicious start when their flight to France was delayed by two hours.
Marc Bartra and Francis missed out as Betis look to recover from a 3-0 defeat to Leganes and after seeing a 2-0 Copa del Rey lead vanish against Valencia a week ago.
Quique Setien, the Betis coach has come in for criticism in recent weeks as flaws in his side's passing game have allowed rivals such as Leganes and Athletic Club to disrupt them with his pressure. After playing two games a week since the turn of the year, there may be some tired legs in the Betis camp.
Villarreal make the trip to Portugal to play Sporting Lisbon at the worst possible moment. Javier Calleja's return to the dugout has seen them claim two draws from their last two games, but they are second from bottom of the Liga Santander, four points from safety, and with a vital league game at home to Sevilla on Sunday, Calleja will probably make sweeping changes to his side as he prioritizes the league.
Fortunes have changed recently for Valencia who have a great chance of reaching the Cup final and securing a top-6 finish in the league as their form improves in 2019.
They have left striker Rodrigo Moreno and left back Jose Gaya in Spain for the trip to play Glasgow Celtic in what should be a packed house at Celtic Park.