The Europa League returns for the knockout rounds and will host four English sides as opposed to the three that were in the group stages. While Manchester United drop down from the Champions League, Arsenal, Leicester and Tottenham Hotspur will reconvene in Europe’s secondary competition.
Arsenal will face Benfica in their knockout tie, while Manchester United will face La Liga outfit Real Sociedad in theirs but the other Premier League sides will have considerably easier tasks at hand
The Foxes will take on Slavia Prague, the champions of the Czech Republic, while Spurs will travel to take on Wolfsberger AC who hail from Austria.
Brendan Rodgers’ side are currently in fantastic form in the Premier League, sitting in third place currently on goal difference. They’ve been able to beat Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea this season domestically and went through the group stages as group winners on goal difference having won four of their six games.
Jose Mourinho’s side on the other hand have had a very odd season, from the highs of topping the table after 12 games to currently sitting in ninth place having accumulated just 12 points in the following 12 games. In the Europa League though, they were able to cruise into the next round as group winners scoring 15 goals in their six group games.
Both sides will be heavy favourites in their knockout ties but will need to be wary of their opponent’s threats.
Slavia Prague were able to score 11 goals in their six group stage games but conceded ten. It means their games were open ended, with three or more goals scored in each game barring their home game against Bayer Leverkusen which they lost 1-0.
Rodgers will be aware of this and will know that means that they aren’t afraid to change their game plan at home when they come up against a stronger side. Leicester’s recent form has seen them lost just once in their last 14 games in all competitions, winning three of their last four and conceding only once.
Spurs on the other hand will come against Wolfsberger AC, who scored only seven goals in their six games but they also only conceded six. Defensively they proved relatively solid and hard to beat, but they could barely hit a barn door with a banjo in their attacking third.
Mourinho’s side will be very confident of a win, despite losing five of their last six games in all competitions and conceding 13 goals in those games. The north Londoners will likely use their large squad to their advantage and rest several key players, but the fact they can call upon stars like Harry Kane and Heung Min-Son in an emergency means they should have far too much quality for their opponents.
Both English teams will go through comfortably over two legs and expect key players to be rested as they prioritise the Premier League run for now.
Slavia Prague 0-2 Leicester
Leicester 3-1 Slavia Prague
(Leicester to progress 5-1 on aggregate)
Wolfsberger AC 0-3 Tottenham
Tottenham 3-0 Wolfsberger AC
(Tottenham to progress 6-0 on aggregate)