Both of Germany's teams in the round of 16 could advance to the quarterfinals. However, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig face tricky second-leg matches against RB Salzburg and Zenit St.Petersburg, respectively.
Borussia Dortmund arrived in Austria on Wednesday looking to make amends for a disastrous showing against Red Bull Salzburg, when Peter Stöger's men were upset 2-1 at home. As a result, Dortmund have to win and score at least two goals in Mozart's hometown to ensure that they advance to the quarterfinals. And in so doing, that their Austrian head coach can leave his homeland with his head held high.
Ensuring that they qualify for next year's Champions League — by finishing in the top four in the Bundesliga — has to be BVB's top priority for the rest of the current campaign. But with Bayern 21 points ahead of them in the Bundesliga, and having been knocked out of the German Cup, the Europa League is now Dortmund's only chance of winning any silverware this season.
Strong European form
Stöger knows that getting a result in Salzburg won't be easy. The team that sits eight points clear at the top of the table in the Austrian Bundesliga is unbeaten in 18 European matches. However, in his prematch press conference, he preferred to focus on the positive.
"We still have the opportunity to repair it (the 2-1 deficit)," he said. "What makes me optimistic is that we do have phases of play when we are really good."
He and his team will also hope to carry the momentum from a last-minute win over Frankfurt last weekend into this European tie.
"I hope that experiencing this success will give us a boost," the Austrian said
He'll also be hoping that to catch a Red Bull side whose morale might be headed in the opposite direction, as they're coming off a disappointing draw away to Mattersburg, in which they blew a two-goal lead.
If Dortmund do fall to Salzburg, it should be with guns blazing, due to the need for at least two goals, Stöger said there would be no holding back in terms of offense. This could be made difficult by what looks to be a somewhat bumpy Salzburg pitch. He'll also have to do without the long injured Shinji Kagawa, Andrej Jarmolenko, Erik Durm and Sebastian Rode, as well as Manuel Akanji, who is not registered to play in the Europa League.
The German Red Bulls
Germany's other team in the competition, who, like Salzburg just happen to be closely linked with energy-drink maker Red Bull, head into St. Petersburg on the strength of a2-1 win in the first leg at home in Leipzig. However, although, they don't actually have to score to advance, their Austrian coach also promised that they would be looking for at least one goal in Russia.
Domenico Criscito's goal in the first leg has made scoring in St. Petersburg a priority for Ralf Hasenhüttl's men
"I am clearly saying that we need a goal there," Ralf Hasenhüttl told the prematch press conference. "We will approach the match in such a way, that we are not going to park the bus and hope that we don't concede."
The memory of the last round is clearly fresh in Hasenhüttl's mind, when RB Leipzig lost the return leg at home 2-0 to Napoli, scraping through on the strength of the away goal they had scored in their 3-1 win in Italy in the first leg.
Hasenhüttl, though will have to do without an important offensive force in the form of Marcel Sabitzer, who has not made the trip to Russia due to a back problem. Leipzig will also have to contend with what are predicted to be sub-zero temperatures in St. Petersburg on Thursday night.
pfd/mds (SID, dpa)