French clubs face Europa League challenge to advance
Dinamo Tbilisi's Givi Kvaratskhelia (R) vies with Tottenham Hotspur's Roberto Soldado on August 22, 2013. The London team is in a prime position to advance in the Europa League after a convincing win over Dinamo Tbilisi.
North Londoners Tottenham - who won the competition when it was known as the UEFA Cup in 1984 -- along with Welsh side Swansea are in prime position to advance after convincing first leg wins over Georgian side Dinamo Tbilisi and Romanian outfit Petrolul Ploiesti respectively.
French representatives Saint-Etienne and Nice, however, face key home ties to stay in the competition after both losing on the road last week.
League Cup winners Saint-Etienne who came closest to continental glory back in 1976 when they lost the European Cup final 1-0 against Bayern Munich need to defeat Danish hopefuls Esbjerg by at least a goal after losing 4-3 in Scandinavia.
Nice are 2-0 down against Cypriot outsiders Apollon Limassol as the Cote d'Azur club look to return to European competition for the first time since 1998 when they reached the last 16 of the now defunct Cup Winners' Cup.
Serie A side Udinese are also in danger of elimination and travel to the Czech Republic with a 3-1 deficit to overturn after losing at home against Slovan Liberec.
Spanish club Sevilla are favoured to advance after defeating Polish side Slask Wroclaw 4-1 while Liga rivals Real Betis should finish the job against Jablonec after winning their first leg 2-1 in the Czech Republic.
VfB Stuttgart need to produce the goods at home and face an anxious evening after losing 2-1 on the road against HNK Rijeka of Croatia while former Dutch champions Feyenoord are also in danger of elimination and must reverse a 1-0 deficit against Russian club Kuban Krasnodar.
Stuttgart have already fired their coach Bruno Labbadia and replaced him with Thomas Schneider after losing 2-1 in domestic action against Bundesliga rivals Augsburg.
The ten losers from the final round of Champions League qualifying will also drop into the first group phase which will feature a round-robin format between September and December.
Third-placed teams from the Champions League group phase will enter the competition from the last-32 next February which will then be a straight two-legged knockout phase leading to the final on May 14, 2014 at Juventus Stadium in Turin, the former site of the old Stadio Delle Alpi.
Chelsea went on to win last season's Europa League against Benfica after becoming the first Champions League winners to fail to get past the group phase.
The group phase draw for both competitions will be made on Thursday at Monaco which proceeds the European Super Cup on Friday between Bayern Munich and Chelsea which will be played in Prague for the first time.