Currently the ninth-ranked country by performance in UEFA club competitions, Russia can rise above the Netherlands — which has only Ajax remaining — with a strong showing in the Europa League and try to close on seventh-ranked Ukraine.
Zenit, whose 2008 UEFA Cup victory was the last time a Russian club won a European title, has a 2-0 lead travelling to face Liverpool.
The winner could face a trip to Ukraine in the next round, which was already drawn, if Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk can overcome its 2-0 first-leg deficit at home to Swiss champion Basel.
Rubin Kazan will welcome Atletico to freezing temperatures in Moscow, where the 2010 and '12 winner must overcome a 2-0 first-leg defeat with an under-strength squad.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone has rested captain Gabi among seven regulars who have not travelled to Russia. The winner next plays Levante or Olympiakos, with the Spanish team going to Greece with a 3-0 lead.
Last week, Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium also staged Anzhi's 3-1 victory against Hannover. The winner after Thursday's second leg in Germany is at home to Newcastle or Metalist Kharkiv. Metalist, which reached the quarterfinals last season, got a 0-0 draw in England last week.
Ajax can potentially face Chelsea in the last 16 if it holds on to a 2-0 lead in Romania against Steaua Bucharest.
After drawn first-leg matches, Bordeaux and Dynamo Kiev, and Genk and Stuttgart resume at 1-1, and Fenerbahce hosts BATE Borisov after a goalless game in Belarus. Benfica has a 1-0 lead at home to Bayer Leverkusen.