Europa League preview: Playoff spots on the line for a host of Aussies

A number of Caltex Socceroos will be out to keep their European hopes alive with their clubs on Friday morning (AEST) as qualifying for this season’s UEFA Europa League heats up.

As many as five Caltex Socceroos could be in action in the second leg ties, including striker Jamie Maclaren who Hibernian side faces a tricky challenge in Norway.

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The Scottish Premier League side takes on Molde, who are coached by ex-Manchester United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjær after playing out a goalless draw in the first leg at Easter Road seven days ago.

Maclaren, who has made three appearances for Hibs since returning to the club on loan this season, played just over an hour in the SPL on the weekend and should lead the attack for Neil Lennon’s troops.

Having kept Molde scoreless at home, an away goal in Norway could be priceless for Hibs, with Maclaren an excellent candidate to provide that after scoring eight times in 11 starts last season.

If Hibernian does manage to get past Molde, they’ll face the winner of the tie between Russia’s Zenit St Petersburg and Dinamo Minsk of Belarus for a spot in the Europa League main draw.

Elsewhere, goalkeeper Danny Vukovic’s Genk will take a handy 2-0 lead to Poland for their second leg against Lech Posnan.

In his maiden outing in European competition last week, Vukovic was superb in keeping out the Poles and another strong display from the Aussie should see Genk through.

Either Spartak Subotica (Serbia) and Brondby (Denmark) will await the Belgian side in the next round.

Alex Gersbach’s Rosenborg is another side that should progress, holding a 2-0 lead over Irish side Cork City.

The left-back’s Norwegian side won away last week and should have little trouble completing the job, setting up a clash against Shkendija of Macedonia.

Striker Apostolos Giannou and his AEK Larnaca also won 2-0 on the road last week, putting them in the box seat to get past Austrian side Sturm Graz, where they’ll go up against Trencin of Slovakia.

And Tomi Juric’s FC Luzern has it all to do in their tie, needing to overturn a 4-0 deficit against Greek side Olympiakos.

Caltex Socceroos striker Tomi Juric.
Tomi Juric