Europa League Preview: Arsenal, Atleti the favorites

Victoria Jones/PA via AP

Here we go!

Arsenal is bidding to win the UEFA Europa League to ensure a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League, and there’s precious little hope of it happening any other way.

[ MORE: LFC-Man City recap | 3 things ]

Standing directly in its way is CSKA Moscow, and defeating the Russians would mean more trouble from an unusually strong field that features Atletico Madrid, Lyon, Sporting Lisbon, Marseille, RB Leipzig, Red Bull Salzburg, and Lazio.

Here are the pertinent details of the remaining teams in the tournament, and their quarterfinal ties.

Arsenal vs. CSKA Moscow

Arsene Wenger is keeping his lineup close to the vest, including goalkeepers Petr Cech and David Ospina. He says Alexandre Lacazette is fit to start but wouldn’t commit to selecting him.

Domestically speaking: Arsenal’s 51 points are five points behind fifth place Chelsea and five ahead of seventh place Burnley in the Premier League. CSKA is three points behind Spartak Moscow and five back of Lokomotiv Moscow in the race for the Russian Premier League.

Head-to-head: The two sides met in the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League, with CSKA winning 1-0 in Russia on top of a scoreless draw at the Emirates Stadium during its first season as Arsenal’s ground.

Atletico Madrid vs. Sporting Lisbon

Domestically speaking: Atleti is nine points behind leaders Barcelona and four ahead of city rivals Real Madrid with the Madrid Derby looming this weekend. Sporting is five points shy of Porto and six behind Benfica in the Primeira Liga.

Head-to-head: A pair of Europa League dates in 2010 saw Sporting Lisbon advance by scoring the only away goals in 2-2 and 0-0 draws.

RB Leipzig vs. Marseille

Domestically speaking: Marseille is third in Ligue 1, five points back of Monaco and two ahead of Lyon. RBL is fourth in the Bundesliga, two points behind Borussia Dortmund and one clear of Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt.

Head-to-head: This is the first meeting between the German whiz kids and the French mainstays.

Red Bull Salzburg vs. Lazio

Domestically speaking: Salzburg has an 8-point lead on SK Sturm Graz in the race for the Austrian Bundesliga crown, while Lazio’s 57 points are two back of fourth place Inter Milan in Seriea.

Head-to-head: Salzburg beat Lazio 2-1 home and away in the group stage of the 2009-10 Europa League.