By News Team
17th March 2021
After some tense opening legs, the Europa League round of 16 will conclude on Thursday evening, with four British clubs all in with a strong chance of making the last eight.
With Manchester United, Spurs, Rangers and Arsenal all in action, we preview their games below.
Man United to progress past Milan?
Arguably the tie of the round is perfectly poised following an entertaining 1-1 first leg draw at Old Trafford. Whilst AC Milan dominated large parts of the first half and might have felt somewhat aggrieved to have had two goals chalked off, it was United who scored first after Bruno Fernandes’ through ball was met by an equally impressive back header from Amad Diallo just minutes after being brought on as a substitute.
It looked like that would settle the first leg, as Milan spurned a few handy chances, until Simon Kjær’s 92nd minute header beat Dean Henderson’s questionable goalkeeping. A useful away goal for the Italian side, who might fancy their chances of toppling a United team that have lost on four of the last five visits to the San Siro. In fact, the Red Devils have been eliminated from five of the last six European ties in which they have failed to win the first leg.
United, however, should be confident of being able to breach a Milan defence that has kept just a single clean sheet in their last nine Europa League home matches. United are currently 23/20 favourites to win on the night and 4/7 to advance to the quarter-final stage. Milan on the other hand are 12/5 to win on the night and 5/4 to advance.
Spurs to march on?
Jose Mourinho’s Spurs face a tricky visit to Dinamo Zagreb as they look to protect a 2-0 lead from the first leg. Two goals from Harry Kane capped a solid team performance in the first game, and Zagreb will have to improve a lot to put Spurs under pressure in this one.
The Stadion Maksimir is far from an easy ground to visit – Zagreb have lost just one of their last 16 European home games, which came against Manchester City in the 2019/20 Champions League. However, Spurs’ European form has certainly improved in recent seasons, winning three of their last five away knockout matches in major European competitions and they’ve won all three of the previous knockout ties they’ve led after the first leg.
Rangers to keep up impressive season?
After clinching the Scottish Premiership title, Steven Gerrard’s Rangers will be looking to reach the last eight of a European competition for the first time since they lost in the UEFA Cup final in 2008. A tough match against Slavia Prague, who were impressive when knocking out Leicester City in the previous round, stands in their way, with the first leg ending 1-1.
Rangers have made Ibrox a fortress in all competitions in recent seasons and have lost just one of their last 23 European home matches. A win in this one would make Gerrard just the third English manager to make the Europa League last eight, and the first with a non-English side since Roy Hodgson did so with Inter Milan back in 1997. They’re currently 13/10 to win on the night, and 4/7 to qualify for the quarter-final.
Slavia Prague will certainly not be phased by their visit to Ibrox. After emerging impressively from a difficult group that also included Bayer Leverkusen and Nice, they surprised many by comfortably beating Leicester at the King Power to make the round of 16. The Czech side are 11/5 to win on the night and 5/4 to progress to the next round.
Arsenal to gain revenge?
After a strong 3-1 win in Greece in the first leg, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side already have one foot in the last eight going into Thursday’s second leg against Olympiakos. Martin Odegaard had put Arsenal ahead, before late goals from Gabriel and Mohamed Elneny put the game to bed.
Whilst the Gunners should be confident, having won five of their last six Europa League ties in which they have led after the first leg, they will be wary that their only failure in that run came against their Greek opponents last season, who qualified on away goals after winning 2-1 in the second leg. In fact, Olympiakos have beaten Arsenal in both of their two previous European visits to the Emirates.