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Spanish trip prepare for Europa League action

English.news.cn   2012-09-19 15:29:28            

MADRID, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- Reigning Europa League champions Atletico Madrid begin the defense of their crown when they travel to Israel to face Hapoel Tel Aviv on Thursday night.

Atletico have enjoyed a positive start to the domestic season, scoring four goals in both of their home games, but coach Diego Simeone is considering resting Colombian striker Radomal Falcao for the trip to Israel, where Atletico have never played before.

Falcao played at the weekend after returning from international duty with Colombia and Simeone prefers the striker to rest rather than suffer the effects of another long journey.

Adrian Lopez and Diego Costa stand by to replace Falcao in Atletico's starting 11, while others such as 'Cebolla' Rodriguez and Raul Lopez will also start the game.

Last season's beaten finalists Athletic Club Bilbao are also in Europa League action and coach Marcelo Bielsa will look to use the home match against another Israeli side, Hapoel Kiryat Shimona.

Athletic have the leakiest defense in the Primera Liga this season and Bielsa could look to give minutes to Borja Ekiza, while Oscar de Marcos will drop back to cover at left back.

However, there is no doubt that the center of attention will be striker Fernando Llorente: the center-forward, who has said he doesn't want to extend his contract with the club at the end of the season, marked his return to action with a goal in the 3-3 draw away to Espanyol on Sunday and can expect a warm reception from a crowd that hopes to help him change his mind over his decision to leave the Basque club.

Finally Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martinez has a dilemma ahead of his side's home match against Swedish outfit, Helsignborg. Levante have had a poor start to the season and Martinez is tempted to rest players from his regular starting 11 even though it may mean saying goodbye to the club's chances of making it through the group stage of the competition.

Frustratingly a small squad may mean that after making a huge effort to qualify for Europe for the first time, Levante now have to put their hopes into second place behind the need to assure their position in the Primera Liga.

Editor: znz
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