The Europa League returned this week and we finally have a set of quarter-finalists for the competition.
With all ties yet to be completed, with some not even having played their first-leg yet, UEFA set up this fixture list in order to ensure a winner was crowned in this years tournament. All second leg fixtures were played behind closed doors in home stadiums, while any fixture that hadn’t yet completed a first-leg became a one-off knockout fixture in a neutral stadium.
Manchester United held a 5-0 aggregate lead over LASK Linz going into the second leg and secured another win at Old Trafford thanks to goals from Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial in a 2-1 win.
Rangers were looking to overcome a 3-1 deficit when they travelled to Leverkusen, but the German outfit were comfortable throughout and eased themselves to another win thanks to a sole Moussa Diaby goal.
Copenhagen were able to secure their quarter-final place thanks to a 3-0 win over Istanbul, with former Manchester United defender Guillermo Varela getting an assist as the Danish side progressed, while Shakhtar Donetsk progressed after scoring three goals from the 89th minute onward to eliminate Wolfsburg. Basel eased into the next round with a win over Frankfurt on the night to give them a 4-0 aggregate win while Wolves overcame a tough task in Olympiacos thanks to an early Raul Jimenez penalty to win 2-1 on aggregate.
In the one-off fixtures, Inter Milan beat Getafe in a closely fought encounter thanks to goals from Romelu Lukaku and Christian Eriksen while Sevilla pipped Roma in a 2-0 win thanks to Sergio Reguillon and Youssef En-Nesyri.
This has set up some tasty quarter-final fixtures as these 8 teams battle it out for a place in next years UEFA Champions League, as Pot 1 seeds as well as winning themselves a major European title.
Manchester United will take on Copenhagen on Monday with a place in next season’s Champions League already secured. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær however has made it abundantly clear that he wants a trophy to cap off the season he’s had and after faltering in the FA Cup at the semi-final stage he is prioritising this competition. They will be heavy favourites for the game in Cologne having rested the majority of his heavy hitters in their Last 16 second leg and I expect a comfortable victory for the Reds. 2-0, goals from Anthony Martial and Bruno Fernandes my pick.
Also on Monday is arguably the tie of the round, as Inter Milan take on Bayer Leverkusen. The Italian side finished second in Serie A this season and Conte will be keen to add a European trophy to his polished CV. Leverkusen will be looking to win the competition as they missed out on the Champions League via their league position having finished 5th in the Bundesliga. With Kai Havertz looking to leave the club, Chelsea’s reported stance is the hope that their participation in the competition can get Havertz to join with Leverkusen accepting a lower fee. In a one-off game, both clubs will be looking to ensure they don’t lose first and foremost and I think Conte’s Inter side suit that better. With in-form Romelu Lukaku up front and firing, I expect his goal will see Inter through in a tight game.
The following day, Shakhtar will take on Basel as the underdogs of the competition look to progress into the final four. Both sides won their Last 16 tie comfortably and will fancy their chances going into this game knowing they got a favourable draw in comparison to what they could have got. Shakhtar are a free flowing attacking side loaded with Brazilian talent and have got more goals in their side than Basel, but the Swiss side are a strong defensive unit and have kept a clean sheet in each of their last five Europa League games. In a one-off game though, they will need to come forward that little bit more and I think it will be enough for Shakhtar to get the goal they need. With Basel then having to push forward, Shakhtar should be able to get another and wrap the game up.
Finally, Wolves will take on Sevilla in a mouth-watering tie. Wolves are a solid defensive unit who control the game with their playmaking midfielders and directness in attack causing all sorts of problems for opposition defences. Sevilla aren’t so solid defensively but they move the ball quickly and well in the middle and final third and use their full-backs effectively to provide extra attacking options. With Ever Banega pulling the strings in midfield and Lucas Ocampos a big goalscoring threat from out wide, Wolves will need to be wary of him making runs between the wing-backs and centre-backs into space. Overall though, Wolves’ added depth should overall be enough to see them through. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one end level after 90 minutes but in extra-time, Wolves’ numerical advantage defensively will see them able to keep Sevilla out and it could be a substitute’s fresh legs that make the difference with a winning goal.
Manchester United 2-0 Copenhagen
Inter Milan 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0 FC Basel
Wolves 1-0 Sevilla (aet)
Do you agree with my picks? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!