Luciano Spalletti believes Diego Maradona will be looking down on his two former teams and hoping Napoli beat Barcelona on Thursday.

In the pick of the Europa League knockout round play-off ties, the Partenopei face Barca home and away over the next week.

The Blaugrana dropped into UEFA's secondary competition for the first time since 2003-04 following their elimination from the Champions League in a tough start to the season.

The Catalan side have recovered a little momentum under Xavi, however, and present a major test for Spalletti's Napoli, who are third in Serie A.

But this fixture – only previously played in the last 16 of the 2019-20 Champions League – will always be associated far more with Maradona than any modern star.

The Argentina great moved to Napoli after two years with Barca in the 1980s, enjoying the best spell of his career over seven seasons in Italy.

Twice a league champion with Napoli, Spalletti suggested on the eve of the match the late Maradona would favour his club.

Asked about injury issues in both camps, the Napoli coach said: "I don't think there will be a disadvantage for the absence of a player.

"The two squads are so well equipped that the absence of one player and the presence of another does not make a difference.

"There would be one that could make a difference, but he will watch this game from heaven.

"I am talking about Maradona, who will initially try to be 'good', but then I am convinced he will take a position and cheer for Napoli."

Fabian Ruiz is flattered to be linked with a move to Barcelona and Real Madrid but insists he is happy at Napoli. 

Spain international Fabian will be out of contract at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona at the end of next season. 

It was this week reported that talks over a renewal for the midfielder had broken down and Napoli would be forced to listen to offers for him, with Barca and Madrid the player's favoured potential destinations.

Asked about the situation ahead of Napoli's Europa League play-off meeting with Barca at Camp Nou on Thursday, Fabian admitted it was nice to hear of such clubs being interested in him. 

He told a news conference: "It's always nice to see yourself linked with great clubs, especially the Spanish ones. 

"However, I have another year on my contract. I'm happy at Napoli and concentrated on [Thursday's] match." 

Barca are contesting the secondary European competition for the first time since 2003-04, when they were eliminated in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup by Celtic. 

A run of 191 straight continental games in the Champions League was ended by their group-stage exit and quickly put pressure on head coach Xavi, who was in the starting line-up for both legs of the Blaugrana's loss to Celtic. 

However, Napoli boss Luciano Spalletti has no doubt Xavi will prove to be a success in the dugout, having cut his teeth with a successful spell at Al Sadd. 

"Xavi was already a real football connoisseur as a player, so naturally he will be as a coach too," said Spalletti. 

"They also brought in more unpredictable players in January who can change a game by themselves." 

The only previous meeting between the two teams in a major European competition occurred in the last 16 of the 2019-20 Champions League, when Barca won 4-2 on aggregate after a 3-1 win at Camp Nou. 

Xavi does not believe Barcelona are favourites to win the Europa League as they prepare to face Napoli in a play-off first leg on Thursday.

The Blaugrana's run of 17 successive years competing in the knockout rounds of the Champions League came to a halt when they finished third behind Bayern Munich and Benfica in Group E.

Barca will do battle with Serie A side Napoli for a place in the round of 16 in their first experience of playing in Europe's secondary club competition in its current guise.

Head coach Xavi spoke of his anger over the Catalan giants' eimination from the Champions League, but does not feel they ought to be expected to lift the Europa League.

He told reporters on Wednesday: "I wouldn't say we are favourites. We're going for the two titles, but we're up against a difficult opponent.

"Sevilla have much more experience than us in this competition. I see us as candidates, not favourites, but in the tie."

Napoli are third in Serie A after holding champions Inter to a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

Xavi knows Barca face a big challenge as they attempt to advance at the expense of Luciano Spalletti's side.

"We could perfectly see this tie in the Champions League. They are a very good team," he said.

"Napoli are a really compact team with a very experienced coach. They work well in moving the ball and pressing high up the pitch.

"They're going to make it difficult for us, they want the ball. They also defend well in low blocks and have top-class players."

Xavi has found it painful to see Champions League matches knowing Barca are out of the competition, but considers the Europa League as a chance to add a new trophy to the club's haul.

He added: "It's one more motivation to win a title that we don't have. It makes me very angry to listen to the music of the Champions League and not be there."

The Barca boss revealed he could give Sergio Busquets a rest and hinted he may be ready to unleash Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from the start.

He said of the Gabon striker: "Now he is 100 per cent and we will see him play safely. He is a player capable of playing space, going down to receive and unload.

"I am very happy with him. He is very professional and very positive within the group."

Clubs who make it to the finals of UEFA's competitions will have extra tickets allocated their way, which must be offered to supporters, not sponsors.

UEFA confirmed on Monday that it would release 30,000 free tickets for the finals of the Champions League, Europa League, Europa Conference League and the women's Champions League.

Of those tickets, 6,000 have been allocated to each of the women's Champions League final and the Europa Conference final, with 8,000 to the Europa League and 10,000 to the Champions League showpiece.

UEFA has insisted that clubs must allocate these tickets to "their most loyal supporters", such as season ticket holders, but that they must not be given to officials, sponsors or partners.

Prices for category four and three tickets have also been frozen at €70 and €180 respectively for the next three men's Champions League finals, from 2022 to 2024.

Aleksander Ceferin, UEFA president, said: "Football fans are the lifeblood of the game and we thought it would be a nice way to recognise the difficulties they have experienced over the last two years and how they nevertheless still managed to support their teams and live their passion even when away from the stadiums.

"Fans are playing an integral part in the development of football, and we must ensure that loyal travelling supporters can attend historical moments for their cherished teams at affordable prices."

A UEFA statement detailed that the governing body would cover the costs related to what was described as a "unique one-off initiative", and that the cap of the Champions League final ticket prices was in order to mitigate the impact of prices having undergone "significant hikes" over recent years.

"By deciding to cap these prices for these prestigious games for at least three seasons, UEFA wishes to send a strong signal to fans and ensure that access is affordable to all," the statement concluded.

This season's Champions League final will take place in St Petersburg. The 2023 final will be in Istanbul, which was due to host last season's showdown between Chelsea and Manchester City, but that match was moved to Porto in order to allow fans to attend the game amid coronavirus travel restrictions. The 2024 final will be played in London at Wembley.

This year's Europa League final will take place at Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, with the Europa Conference League showpiece to be held in Tirana, the capital of Albania. This campaign's women's Champions League final is scheduled for May 22, in Turin.

Dani Alves is urging Barcelona to make the most of Ousmane Dembele while they can, but he also reminded the France forward he has a duty to "defend the shirt" as long as he remains at Camp Nou.

Dembele was strongly linked with a move away from Barca in January after his agent and the club came to an impasse in contract negotiations.

His current deal expires in June, meaning Dembele is already eligible to discuss free transfers with other clubs, though Barca have made no secret of their desire to keep him.

Nevertheless, Joan Laporta claimed Dembele ultimately rejected a transfer to an English club on deadline day, a decision that left the club president somewhat baffled and assuming he already had an agreement with another team for next season.

Laporta accepted it would be up to head coach Xavi whether Dembele was selected for the rest of the season, though Alves seems to think Barca should make use of his talents while they can.

Speaking on Movistar's #Vamos show, Alves said: "This kind of thing happens in football, but as long as he stays at Barca, he has to defend the shirt.

"If he goes at the end of the season, then so be it, but there are still five months left. You have to take advantage of being here.

"One has to be smarter than the situation. We have to think intelligently and take advantage of the fact that we have the player.

"We need unity in the entire locker room. You have to create a healthy environment of positivity, in which there are no bad vibes. If everyone contributes their own, Barca will come back, that is everyone's goal."

Alves returned to Camp Nou in November after leaving Sao Paulo and was eventually able to be registered at the start of 2022.

Three more new signings arrived in January as Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined the club.

But due to UEFA regulations only permitting three squad alterations ahead of the knockout phases of its club competitions, one of the new arrivals had to be left off their Europa League list.

Alves was the unfortunate one and, while he acknowledged a degree of frustration at the decision, he insisted he was not about to make a big deal of it.

"The coach knows what I think," he said. "I am always focused on trying to contribute as much as I can.

"We are employees. The club decides. I came to help, to add things, to bring a degree of competitiveness and winning spirit.

"If helping means staying out [of the squad], fine. They are phases of life that one has to accept.

"I would've liked to be in the squad, but unfortunately there were four players for three spots. I'm not going to catch bad vibes, I will continue trying to help."

Dani Alves is the new signing to miss out on Barcelona's Europa League squad after the club confirmed his omission on Wednesday.

The Brazilian, who rejoined the Blaugrana in November, was finally registered for LaLiga duty at the start of January but will not feature for the club in their European campaign.

Alves was joined at the club by fellow new arrivals Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January, but only three would be permitted to be included in the Europa League squad.

UEFA regulations prohibit any more than three new additions to European squads after the January transfer window.

As such, Barca had more new signings than free spaces, with 38-year-old Alves ultimately the one left out.

Ousmane Dembele has been included, however, despite his contract stand-off seeing tensions rise at the club over the past few weeks.

President Joan Laporta openly suggested the situation might make it "more difficult" for Dembele to feature, though he did leave that up to the discretion of head coach Xavi.

Like Alves, young forwards Ez Abde and Ferran Jutgla were left out of the selection despite breaking into the first-team squad – neither were registered with UEFA at the start of the season, nor do either qualify as a homegrown Barca player, therefore would have been competing with the new signings for spaces in the squad.

Barca face Napoli in their Europa League knockout play-off, hosting them on February 17 before going to Naples a week later.

It's possible that no manager in European football has had a greater transformational effect on a club this century than Diego Simeone has had at Atletico Madrid.

Of course, it's impossible to actually prove/disprove that, but when you consider his eight trophy successes is almost a quarter of all the major silverware the club have ever won, most counterarguments would dissipate.

Yet 2021-22 has been far from smooth, and they could head into Sunday's trip to Villarreal 17 points behind pacesetters Real Madrid, assuming Los Blancos beat Valencia 24 hours earlier.

Part of Atletico's problem is they seem to have lost the defensive solidity that's been a cornerstone of Simeone's tactical plan in his decade at the club.

Sunday's match will be the first since the 10-year anniversary of his bow as Atletico coach on January 7, 2012, providing the opportunity to look at how much of a challenge this season is proving to be.

11 away games, no clean sheet

Nothing is more indicative of Atletico's current malaise than their struggles to shut teams out – they're not getting battered, but we're so used to seeing them boast the shrewdest defence in LaLiga.

That's simply not the case this season.

Their 22 goals conceded is bettered by seven teams and isn't far off being twice as many as Sevilla (13), LaLiga's strongest defence this term.

Atletico's issues have been particularly prominent on the road. They've not secured an away clean sheet in LaLiga in any of their previous 11 such games, which is their worst run since December 2010 (17 matches).

No team has more away clean sheets across the top five leagues than Atletico (85) since Simeone's first match, but Manchester City (82) are closing in, fast.

Missing home comforts

The away struggles alluded to before also translates to defeats, with Atletico losing each of the three most recent matches on their travels.

It's worth remembering that two of those came to Madrid and Sevilla, first and second in the table, but typically Simeone's Atletico are solid enough that such sequences don't occur, regardless of the opposition.

In fact, prior to this run, Atletico had not conceded two or more goals in three successive away league games since January/February 2014.

If they lose to Villarreal, it will be their first streak of four consecutive defeats on the road since December 2011, the month Simeone was appointed.

Yellow Submarine on the rise

It wasn't so long ago that Unai Emery appeared to be in danger of being sacked, then he held talks with Newcastle United but ultimately rejected them.

Some might even suggest that his show of loyalty then bought him a little more time at the Ceramica.

As it turns out, Villarreal staying their hand seems to have worked out well. While they may only be as high as eighth, fourth-placed Atletico are just four points ahead of them.

Their recent run has been crucial to that as well, having won each of their past four league games, the most successive LaLiga victories they've managed under Emery.

The end is Unai?

Atletico can perhaps take confidence from the fact Emery has a dreadful record against Simeone.

He has never beaten the Argentinian in 15 matches across all competitions, the most games Emery has managed against another coach without a win in his entire career.

On the flip side, every record or streak is there to be broken – this particular one surely cannot go on forever, and this is one of the more beatable Atletico teams Emery has faced.

He will hope the end of that particular run is nigh.

Barcelona will face Napoli in the pick of the ties for the Europa League knockout round play-off.

Beleaguered European giants Barca crashed out of the Champions League group stages following a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich.

It is the first time since 2003-04 that the Camp Nou club will not appear in the knockout stages of Europe's premier club competition.

Instead, the Europa League offers Xavi's side some hope of continental redemption, although Napoli – fourth in Serie A – represent tough opponents for a side languishing eighth in LaLiga.

Sevilla, six-time winners, will take on Dinamo Zagreb, while Scottish champions Rangers were handed a stern test after being drawn to meet Borrusia Dortmund.

Elsewhere, Porto and Lazio go head-to-head, while Atalanta face Olympiacos, with all ties being decided over two legs.

Europa League knockout round play-off draw in full:

Sevilla v Dinamo Zagreb
Atalanta v Olympiacos
RB Leipzig v Real Sociedad
Barcelona v Napoli
Zenit v Real Betis
Borussia Dortmund v Rangers
Sheriff Tiraspol v Braga
Porto v Lazio

Celtic ended their Europa League adventure by halting a dismal run against Spanish teams with a dramatic 3-2 win over Real Betis.

There was no Group G final-day reckoning, with places from top to bottom already decided with a game to spare, so Thursday's clash was all about playing for pride.

Betis are heading through to the knockout play-offs as runners-up, with Bayer Leverkusen having won the group, while third-placed Celtic have Europa Conference League knockout play-offs ahead of them.

Celtic had gone seven games without a win against Spanish opposition, but goals from Stephen Welsh, Ewan Henderson and David Turnbull, with a winner from the penalty spot in the 78th minute, saw off the LaLiga visitors to Parkhead.

The hosts made a fine start when Welsh deftly headed a left-wing corner from Liel Abada across goal and inside the right post.

Betis midfielder Paul Akouokou struck a sweet shot from outside the box against the angle of post and crossbar with almost the final kick of the first half, and Cristian Tello was denied early in the second half, while Celtic's Nir Bitton scuffed an effort following a corner when he should have done better.

It felt like an equaliser was coming as Joaquin, Diego Lainez and Tello rained more shots towards the Celtic goal. It came in the 69th minute when Joaquin cut in from the right wing, the 40-year-old showing a respectable turn of pace, and Scott Bain pushed a stinging shot from Borja Iglesias against his left-hand post, only for the ball to cruelly ping back into the net off the goalkeeper.

Henderson restored the hosts' lead three minutes later, touching in fellow substitute Michael Johnston's surface-skimming cross from the right, but the rush of goals continued as Iglesias got in behind the Hoops defence and slotted beyond Bain in the 74th minute.

Celtic had a penalty from their next attack, with Edgar Gonzalez tripping Abada, and Turnbull found the bottom-left corner. Ahead for the third time, this time Celtic locked up at the back, making sure of the win.

Mislav Orsic scored a stunning goal as Dinamo Zagreb beat a youthful West Ham side 1-0 in London on Thursday.

West Ham came into the game with their spot as group winners already confirmed and David Moyes made 11 changes to the side that beat Chelsea 3-2 in their last outing.

However, Orsic gave the visitors an early lead, taking a shot from an unlikely angle outside the area on the left, his effort clipping the inside of the right post and going in.

Dinamo were dominant for the majority of the contest and, despite failing to add to their tally, saw out an important victory that sealed second place in Group H.

Orsic opened the scoring in just the third minute with a stunning strike that swerved into the top-right corner from a sharp angle on the left edge of the box, leaving Alphonse Areola with no chance.

Arijan Ademi then spurned a glorious opportunity to double Dinamo's advantage in the 33rd minute as Daniel Stefulj's cross found him free at the back post, but the midfielder directed his header just over the bar.

Dinamo continued to apply pressure, with Luka Ivanusec swivelling just outside the area and hitting a dipping shot that Areola was forced to turn over the bar. 

Shortly before the hour mark, Orsic was fed on the edge of the box and whipped a first-time effort towards the bottom-right corner, but Areola palmed wide.

West Ham offered little attacking threat, but the visitors were unable to extend their advantage, settling for a 1-0 win.

What does it mean? Dinamo seal second spot

West Ham had gone unbeaten in their first five group games, amassing 13 points and an unassailable lead at the summit prior to this game.

Dinamo, however, needed to avoid defeat or for Genk to fail to beat Rapid Vienna in order to secure their place in the play-offs.

Ultimately, they took matters into their own hands with a vital win.

Orsic on target again

Orsic has been directly involved in 12 goals in his last 13 Europa League appearances for Dinamo (eight goals, four assists), while his superb strike here was the first goal West Ham have conceded on home soil in the competition this season.

Young Hammers get their chance

In what is their 42nd game in all European competition (excluding qualifiers), this is the first time West Ham have started two teenagers in a single match (Sonny Perkins and Jamal Baptiste). The youngsters were not able to celebrate with a win, but it will undoubtedly have been a memorable occasion nonetheless.

What's next?

West Ham advance straight to the last 16 of the Europa League after finishing top of the group, while Dinamo will be forced to play a knockout play-off tie against one of the teams that finished third in the Champions League. Possible opponents for the Croatian outfit include Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and six-time winners Sevilla.

Eljif Elmas scored twice as Napoli earned a spot in the play-offs for the Europa League last 16 with a 3-2 win over Leicester City, who fall into the Europa Conference League.

Leicester travelled to Naples knowing they would guarantee a top-two finish in Group C if they could avoid defeat, but first-half strikes from Adam Ounas and Elmas put the hosts ahead on Thursday.

Jonny Evans and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall quickly restored parity in a chaotic opening 45 minutes, only for Elmas to net again after the break and decisively edge Napoli back in front.

Luciano Spalletti's side settled for second – with Spartak Moscow defeating Legia Warsaw, following a 98th-minute penalty save, to top the group – and go into a two-legged play-off in February, while the third-placed visitors face a tie at the same stage of the Europa Conference League.

In a frantic start, Mario Rui's goal-line clearance denied Timothy Castagne following Dewsbury-Hall's cutback, before Napoli went up the other end and Ounas finished into the bottom-left corner after just four minutes.

Napoli doubled their lead when Andrea Petagna unselfishly squared for Elmas to tap in, but Evans quickly responded by firing past Alex Meret after James Maddison's free-kick was deflected towards him.

And Leicester were soon level as Dewsbury-Hall expertly volleyed into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the area.

Kasper Schmeichel pushed away from Ounas after the break, but the Denmark international was powerless when Elmas steered in to restore Napoli's advantage.

Maddison then spurned a glorious chance as he cannoned onto the post following Giovanni Di Lorenzo's mistake, and Jamie Vardy headed over in stoppage time after Schmeichel's save from Kevin Malcuit had kept Leicester's hopes alive.

Rangers were unable to extend Giovanni van Bronckhorst's 100 per cent winning start as they drew 1-1 away to Lyon in the Europa League.

The Gers had won all of their first four matches under the Dutchman, including the 2-0 victory over Sparta Prague that sealed second place in Group A and ultimately rendered Thursday's trip to France a dead rubber.

For a time, Rangers looked like they might cause a shock as Scott Wright's deflected strike put them in front, only for a Calvin Bassey own goal to restore parity early in the second period.

Lyon were superior for the remainder of the match but it finished level, with Les Gones already guaranteed a spot in the round of 16 and Rangers set to be pitted against one of the third-placed Champions League sides in the play-off round.

While Lyon initially settled better, the visitors grew into the contest and went close to an opener in the 24th minute as Kemar Roofe's early effort from out wide caught Julian Pollersbeck off his line but only clipped the outside of the post.

Pollersbeck was not so fortunate just before half-time, however, with Wright seeing his 20-yard effort deflected into the net after brilliant play by Glen Kamara to set the chance up with a cut-back.

Another freak deflection ensured Lyon were level soon after the restart, with Rayan Cherki drilling across goal and Bassey prodding into his own net.

Tinotenda Kadewere and Islam Slimani both spurned reasonable chances for the hosts, who piled the pressure on at the end, but the stalemate was of no concern to either side.

What does it mean? Positives for Van Bronckhorst

It can be difficult to draw meaningful conclusions from low-stakes contests such as this, but Van Bronckhorst should be happy with Rangers' first-half display at the least.

Ryan Kent and Kemar Roofe both looked bright and at no point did they look overawed against a decent team.

They took their foot off the gas in the second half, though Rangers still coped fairly well with Lyon.

Picture perfect from Kamara

He may have only played the first half, but Rangers midfielder Kamara was effective during his time on the pitch, playing two key passes and getting the assist for Wright. No other player on the pitch managed to create more chances than him over the course of the full 90 minutes.

Disappointment for Dembele

Former Celtic striker Moussa Dembele will have been eager to impress, for obvious reasons, but it was not his night. He made a mess of an early opportunity and that proved to be his only shot of the game before being withdrawn 14 minutes from time.

What's next?

Rangers will find out their next Europa League opponents in the play-off draw on Monday – Lyon will not be pulled out of the hat until next February when the draw for the last-16 takes place.

Porto and Sporting CP face a one-year ban from playing in Europe if they fail to pay outstanding debts by the end of next month.

UEFA on Friday revealed sanctions that have been issued to eight clubs for breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

Primeira Liga leaders Porto and second-placed Sporting have been fined €300,000 and €250,000 respectively and will not play in the next UEFA club competition they qualify for in one of the next three seasons unless they can prove by January 31, 2022 they have settled "outstanding overdue amounts."

LaLiga side Real Betis have been hit with a €250,000 fine, while CSKA Sofia and CD Santa Clara were both ordered to pay €75,000 and Mons Calpe SC must fork out €15,000.

All of those clubs also face missing out on playing in Europe in either the 2022-23, 2023-24 or 2024-25 season if they qualify, but have not paid what they owe.

FC Astana and CFR 1907 Cluj were fined €150,000 and €200,000 respectively, but were not threatened with a ban.

The newly established First Chamber of the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB First Chamber) also found that AEK Athens did not comply with several club licensing and FFP rules.

The Greek club agreed to pay an unconditional financial contribution of €1.5million, while they will also withhold 10 per cent of UEFA prize money they make in the next UEFA club competition they qualify for.

Leicester City midfielder James Maddison does not feel he had anything to prove after an impressive performance in his team's 3-1 win against Legia Warsaw in the Europa League on Thursday.

The 25-year-old scored and assisted during his hour on the pitch at the King Power Stadium in a victory that sent the Foxes to the top of Group C with one match remaining.

All four goals in the game came in the first half, with Patson Daka and Wilfred Ndidi also on the scoresheet for the hosts, while Filip Mladenovic followed up to score after Mahir Emreli's spot-kick was saved by Kasper Schmeichel.

Maddison was heavily involved in most of Leicester's dangerous attacking play, making two key passes, having three shots and putting in six crosses.

He also scored the second goal of the game, with his fierce left-foot effort after a one-two with Ademola Lookman giving Legia goalkeeper Cezary Miszta no chance.

Speaking to BT Sport after the win, Maddison was asked whether he felt he had something to prove after a stop-start season, with just eight of his 12 appearances in the Premier League coming from the start.

"I don't think I had a point to prove, no," Maddison said. "I'm hungry. I always want to do well for my team, for the fans, my family, the manager.

"I want to get back to my best and tonight I showed that."

It is the third time Maddison has both scored and assisted in a single game for Leicester in all competitions, having previously done so against Braga and Brentford.

We move to the summit of the group #LeiLgw pic.twitter.com/OhOu2jS7uu

— Leicester City (@LCFC) November 25, 2021

Meanwhile, Brendan Rodgers alleviated fears around Jonny Evans, who was injured in the warm-up and replaced by Daniel Amartey, with the Foxes boss confirming that the centre-back's withdrawal before the game was merely a precaution.

"He just felt something in his thigh, and the last thing we can do is have anyone else out, especially such an important player like Jonny. He should be fine for the weekend," he told BT Sport.

On the win, the former Liverpool and Celtic manager was particularly pleased to see his team return to their usual standards of pressing after four games without a win in all competitions.

"The atmosphere was amazing," he added. "The supporters played a huge part in it, and like I said before the game, just returning to our football with our pressing and really intense counter-pressing, that won us the game, especially in the first half."

Leicester leapfrogged all three of their Europa League rivals to the top of Group C after a comfortable 3-1 win against Legia Warsaw at the King Power Stadium.

The Foxes started Thursday's game bottom of a tight group, but with Spartak Moscow beating Napoli 2-1 on Wednesday, Brendan Rodgers' side now sit top thanks to first-half goals from Patson Daka, James Maddison and Wilfried Ndidi.

The only negative for Rodgers on the night aside from Filip Mladenovic's consolation strike was losing Jonny Evans to a muscle injury in the warm-up, with Daniel Amartey replacing him in defence.

The Premier League outfit will travel to Napoli for the final game of the group stage knowing that a draw will be enough to see them qualify for the knockout stage.

Leicester put the pressure on the visitors from the first whistle and were ahead in the 11th minute when good work from Harvey Barnes forced a deflection that fell kindly for Daka, who calmly slid in his fifth Europa League goal of the campaign.

They doubled their lead in the 21st minute as Maddison worked the ball onto his left foot after a one-two with Ademola Lookman before firing into the top corner of the net.

The Polish side had a penalty just five minutes later after Caglar Soyuncu's clearance struck Wilfried Ndidi on the arm. Mahir Emreli's spot-kick was saved by Kasper Schmeichel but Mladenovic was quickest to follow up and slot in the rebound.

Ndidi made amends for his penalty concession in the 33rd minute, though, as the unmarked Nigerian headed in Leicester's third from a Maddison corner.

Both teams could have added to the scoring in the second half but the hosts were happy to see out the win, only their second in this year's Europa League group stage.

 

What does it mean? Foxes in the driving seat

Leicester avenged the 1-0 defeat they suffered in the reverse fixture on matchday two with relative ease and now sit top of Group C, one point ahead of both Spartak Moscow and Napoli.

Rodgers will be more than satisfied with that after picking up just one point from their first two games in the group, though it promises to be a tough final fixture in Naples in two weeks.

The Foxes have now only lost two of their 16 home matches in European football (W9 D5).

Maddison rises to the occasion

Maddison has had a quiet start to the season, but was at his influential best in the hour he got on the pitch against Legia, taking three shots, making two key passes and putting in six crosses.

The 25-year-old also scored and assisted in a single game for Leicester for the third time in all competitions, previously doing so against Sporting Braga (November 2020 in the Europa League) and Brentford (January 2021 in the FA Cup).

Legia Warsaw in crisis

Marek Golebiewski's side have now lost nine of their last ten games in all competitions and sit second from bottom in the Polish top flight.

This was Legia Warsaw’s first European match in England since November 1995, when they drew 0-0 with Blackburn Rovers in the Champions League group stages, and despite getting on the scoresheet, never looked like stopping the rot in Leicester.

What’s next?

Leicester host former boss Claudio Ranieri and his Watford team in the Premier League on Sunday, while Legia Warsaw are at home to Jagiellonia Bialystok on the same day in the Ekstraklasa.

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