Arsenal, Man United, Roma, Sevilla and a rapid ‘re-Union’ all feature in the UEFA Europa League round of 16.
Diski101 brings you the lowdown of Thursday’s game.
Man United vs Real Betis
After a shaky start to the season under new manager Erik ten Hag, United are now purring. They have won the League Cup and eliminated Liga leaders Barcelona in the last round, though they may not relish a meeting with Betis boss Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean won a Premier League title and two League Cups with United’s rivals Man City, and oversaw four goalless draws against the Red Devils during his time in charge of Villarreal.
Roma vs Real Sociedad
Roma’s last seven European home results against Spanish sides have not been encouraging (W1 D2 L4), but coach José Mourinho knows Spanish football having won the 2011/12 Liga title with Real Madrid and newly-arrived defender Diego Llorente was a Real Sociedad player from 2017 to 2020. Visiting coach Imanol Alguacil called Mourinho a “role model” but is not cowed, saying: “We beat Man United in the group stage, so why can’t we beat Roma?”
Leverkusen vs Ferencváros
Ferencváros coach Stanislav Cherchesov felt “some kind of intuition” may have been involved on the night of the knockout play-off deciders when he decided to take a look at Leverkusen’s decider at Monaco before watching Man United vs Barcelona. The Hungarian champions were duly paired with Xabi Alonso’s side, and are still aiming to take the next step toward playing in the final in their native Budapest. “It will be hard, but nothing comes easy,” said Cherchesov.
Shakhtar vs Feyenoord
Both these sides won this competition when it was the UEFA Cup: Feyenoord in 1973/74 and 2001/02 and Shakhtar in 2008/09. They have also met before, in the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League group stage, the Pitmen winning 2-1 away and then 3-1 at home. As they reconvene in Warsaw, Shakhtar may still be glowing from their shoot-out success at Rennes in the last round.
Sporting CP vs Arsenal
After his new side were drawn against the club he represented from 2011 to 2022, right-back Héctor Bellerín posted a teary face and a ‘house’ emoji on his Instagram page. The tie will be an emotional one for the 27-year-old right-back, but Sporting (who are having an up-and-down season) are happy to be underdogs in Lisbon. “We are not candidates to win the Europa League, but we are candidates to win every game,” said coach Rúben Amorim.
Juventus vs Freiburg
Massimiliano Alllegri’s side are having a turbulent season in Serie A, but remain afloat in Europe and are unbeaten in their last four home UEFA competition games against Bundesliga sides (W2 D2). Freiburg are still hoping to extend their longest ever European campaign to the quarter-finals. “There’s always a chance in football,” said coach Christian Streich. “In other sports, smaller teams don’t stand much chance. That’s one of the mysteries of this game.”
Sevilla vs Fenerbahçe
Jorge Jesus coached the Benfica side that lost out to Sevilla on penalties in the final of the 2014 UEFA Europa League, and the Fenerbahçe boss has his work cut out to eliminate the six-time competition winners. Sevilla sporting director Monchi was eager for his side to strike a decisive blow at home, mindful that Istanbul is not a venue for the faint-hearted: “[Fenerbahçe] are very difficult to face at their place because they will have a very lively crowd who cheer non-stop.”
Union Berlin vs Union Saint-Gilloise
Billed punningly as the ‘re-Union’, this tie brings together the two Unions, who also met in the group stage: the Belgian Union won 1-0 in Berlin, but the German Union won by the same margin when the teams reconvened in Brussels. Both sides are up-and-coming; under Urs Fischer, Union Berlin have been at the top end of the Bundesliga table all season, while Union SG came second in Belgium in 2021/22 having returned to the top tier after an absence of nearly 50 years.
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