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The battle to reach the knockout stages continues in the Europa League
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Europa Conference League: Lazio and Fiorentina look set to progress

Lazio and Fiorentina, the two biggest names in the Europa Conference League play-off round, both come into their second-leg ties with the upper hand on Thursday, while Anderlecht must find a win at home.

The 16 sides contesting the knockout play-off round consist of eight Europa League group stage third-place teams and the eight runners-up from Europa Conference League groups. 

While the losing teams can wave goodbye to hopes of European silverware this season, the prize on offer for the victors is a place in the round of 16, where successful sides will meet the eight group winners, including 4/1 outright favourites West Ham, Nice, Villarreal and Istanbul Basaksehir.  

With away goals no longer counting double, extra time and penalties are a real prospect. 

Tough task for Anderlecht

WhatAnderlecht v Ludogorets Razgrad
WhereLotto Park, Brussels
When17:45, Thursday 23rd February
How to watchBT Sport Digital Exclusive
OddsAnderlecht 17/20, Draw 13/5, Ludogorets Razgrad 16/5 

Defeat in Bulgaria means Anderlecht have it all to do when Ludogorets Razgrad travel to Belgium on Thursday evening, in one of the night’s early kick-offs. 

Ludogorets haven’t appeared in the last 16 of a major tournament since 2014 and have given themselves a fighting chance, though the hosts are still hotly fancied to win on the night at least, with odds of 17/20

The Bulgarians are winless from their three road trips so far this campaign, though Anderlecht’s home form leaves much to be desired; their win against St Truiden last time out is their only victory in five competitive home fixtures – a run that include three consecutive defeats. 

They also managed only four points in their three Europa Conference League group games and are limping in ninth spot in their domestic league, having lost more games than they’ve won. 

Interestingly, only four of the 14 league goals conceded in Ludogorets’ 20 league games so far have come before half time, plus only two of their Europa League goals against, from a total of eight. 

A Draw-Anderlecht bet can be backed at 7/2

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 Lazio favourites to keep Cluj at bay

WhatCFR Cluj v Lazio
WhereStadionul Dr. Constantin Radulescu, Cluj-Napoca
When17:45, Thursday 23rd February
How to watchBT Sport Digital Exclusive
OddsCFR Cluj 10/3, Draw 23/10, Lazio 10/11

Holding a slender 1-0 lead going into the return leg after a win on home turf, Lazio – second-favourites to lift the trophy at 5/1 – will be quietly confident of reaching the round of 16 in another 17:45 affair. 

They kept their winning momentum going at the weekend on the return to domestic duties, seeing off Salernitana with a 2-0 victory, meaning they have lost just twice in 10 competitive fixtures. 

Cluj sit just two points off top spot in the Romanian top flight and are very much still in the tie, though the three-game losing streak that preceded their 3-1 win over Arges at the weekend is still cause for concern ahead of their big tie. 

They put together a mixed bag of results in front of home fans in the group stage, losing their opener 0-1 against top side Sivasspor but rallying to beat both Slavia Prague and Ballkani. 

However, they have been beaten twice in three competitive home games and given Lazio’s poor away record in Europe – one point from three group games – an interesting contest is on the cards. 

A return of under 1.5 goals looks to be priced attractively at 7/4.

All guns blazing as Braga need miracle

WhatFiorentina v Braga
WhereStadio Artemio Franchi, Florence
When20:00, Thursday 23rd February
How to watchBT Sport 10
OddsFiorentina 8/11, Draw 14/5, Braga 15/4

The odds of Braga qualifying are heavily stacked against the Portuguese side, beaten 4-0 at home by a rampant Fiorentina last week. 

While progression remains something of a pipedream, the visitors have nothing to lose and will likely go gung ho in search of spare goals to give them even a slither of a chance. 

So hefty is Fiorentina’s aggregate margin that they can afford to take their foot off the pedal, knowing only a landslide will halt their charge into the round of 16. 

With a key battle against relegation-threatened Verona next up in the league, La Viola, who sit 14th in Serie A without a win in the competition since the first week of the year, can ill afford to prioritise a tie that is all but won already, opening the door to the possibility of a Braga win on the night, available at 15/4

The first-leg result was an anomaly for Braga, who have won nine of their last 11 matches in all competitions – only Sporting got the better of them in that time, besides the Italians.

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