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Which British clubs are in the Europa League action this week?

Which British clubs are in the Europa League action this week?
© Reuters
Arsenal, Leicester and Rangers will be looking to maintain their 100 per cent records after winning both group games so far.

British clubs return to Europa League action on Thursday after last week’s second round of group matches.

Arsenal and Leicester both have home games, against Molde and Braga respectively, while Tottenham go to Ludogorets. Rangers are away at Benfica and Celtic host Sparta Prague.

Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at the opposition clubs.

Coaches

Dundalk v Molde – UEFA Europa League – Group B – Tallaght Stadium
Erling Moe succeeded Ole Gunnar Solskaer as Molde boss (Donall Farmer/PA)

Molde: Erling Moe replaced Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, initially as caretaker manager, when he left for Manchester United in December 2018 as interim boss. Moe, a former Molde player, had been Solskjaer’s assistant and was given the job on a permanent basis when it became clear Solskjaer would not be returning.

Ludogorets: Pavel Vrba was appointed last December. The 56-year-old has enjoyed success previously at Slovakian club Zilina, winning the league and cup in 2006/07, as well as Ludogorets’ Czech rivals Viktoria Plzen, where he won three league titles and two domestic cups.

Braga: Carlos Carvalhal will be familiar to British fans from his time at Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea. The Portuguese returned to manage Braga for a second time this summer, signing a two-year deal, 14 years after his first spell at the club.

Benfica: Jorge Jesus, the club’s most decorated manager of the 21st century, returned for a second spell in charge this summer after a hugely successful stint in Brazil with Flamengo where he won five trophies. His first spell at Benfica, between 2009 and 2015, brought 10 trophies, including three Portuguese championship titles in six seasons, and two Europa League final appearances, before he stunned by leaving for city rivals Sporting Lisbon.

Sparta Prague: Vaclav Kotal, 68, a former player for Sparta, was appointed manager in February, having been in charge of the club’s B team.

European pedigree

Molde: The Norwegian club reached the Champions League group stage during the 1999/2000 season and the group stage of the Europa League in 2012/13. In 2015/16 Molde topped a group containing Fenerbahce, Ajax and Celtic to reach the round of 32 in the Europa League, losing 3-1 on aggregate to eventual winners Sevilla.

Ludogorets: Since winning the Bulgarian league for the first time in their history in 2012, Ludogorets have qualified for Europe every season since. They reached the round of 16 in the Europa League in 2013/14 after topping their group and the round of 32 in 2017/18 and last season.

Braga: Regulars in European competition since 2004, Braga won the 2008 Intertoto Cup. They qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 2010–11, and that same season reached the Europa League Final – losing 1-0 to Portuguese rivals Porto in Dublin.

Benfica: Historically, the club from the Portuguese capital has a strong tradition in European football, winning back-to-back European Cups in 1961 and 1962 and losing in finals in 1963, 1965, 1968, 1988 and 1990. Benfica have also reached three UEFA Cup/Europa League finals, losing on each occasion in 1983, 2013 and 2014.

Sparta Prague: Their best European showing came in the 1972/73 Cup Winners’ Cup when they reached the semi-finals. They have been regulars in Europe since 1980 without reaching such heights, making the quarter-finals of various competitions on a handful of occasions.

Form

Molde: Second in the Norwegian Tippeligaen but 16 points behind league leaders Bado Glimt. Molde have won their last four domestic fixtures and, like Arsenal, both of their opening two games in the Europa League. They arrive in London on a six-match winning run.

Ludogorets: They are unbeaten in nine games in the Bulgarian top flight and top of the division on goal difference. Ludogorets are still looking for their first point in the Europa League after beginning with back-to-back defeats.

Braga: Third in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, Braga arrive in England on a six-match winning streak in all competitions.

Benfica: Second in the Portuguese Primeira Liga, Benfica saw their seven-game winning run in all competitions ended at the weekend by a 3-0 defeat at Boavista.

Sparta Prague: Have won all seven league and cup matches domestically this season and are top of the Czech table. Sparta arrive in Glasgow, though, on the back of successive defeats in the Europa League.

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