By News Team
Last Updated: 18th February 2021
The Europa League returns this week following its winter break, with the round of 32 first legs taking place on Thursday.
There’s plenty of British interest as the knockout rounds get under way and we’ve taken a look at the pick of the action to keep an eye on.
Wolfsberg v Spurs
Spurs return to Europa League action this week with their round of 32 first leg tie against Austrian outfit Wolfsberg. After Saturday’s 3-0 Premier League defeat to Manchester City, Spurs will be looking forward to turning their attention to a different competition, and one they will have serious ambitions of winning as Jose Mourinho looks to win the Europa League trophy for the third time, having done so with Porto and Manchester United.
While Spurs have dropped down to ninth in the Premier League after some disappointing results of late, they head into Thursday’s fixture as the 7/20 odds-on favourites for a first-leg victory, with Mourinho’s experience in this competition no doubt playing a part in this. Spurs, meanwhile, are joint 6/1 favourites to win the trophy this season.
Wolfsberg currently sit sixth in the Austrian Bundesliga and are the 8/1 underdogs, with the draw at 19/5. After Spurs drew a blank against City, the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min will be desperate to get back in amongst the goals here. Spurs are 11/10 to score in both halves.
Real Sociedad v Manchester United
Having suffered the disappointment of dropping into the Europa League from the Champions League this season, Manchester United will be fired up to ensure it’s not a wasted season in Europe by looking to go all the way in the continent’s second-tier competition. Alongside Spurs, United are also the joint 6/1 favourites for glory this year.
Standing in their way of advancing to the last 16, though, are Real Sociedad, who will offer a real challenge to the Red Devils. While the Spanish outfit’s excellent start to the season did curtail somewhat, they are still fighting for a Champions League spot in La Liga and currently sit fifth in the table. They also possess a player United know very well – David Silva, who has returned from injury to guide his club to back-to-back victories. Silva will surely have a say on how this one turns out and he’s 7/1 to score anytime on Thursday.
But it’s United who head into this clash as the favourites, priced at 23/20, with Sociedad 9/4 for the victory. It does really depend on what Red Devils team turns up on Thursday, though, as they reminded everyone once again they are capable of a major slip-up when drawing 1-1 with West Brom on Sunday. In Marcus Rashford they have a player who has shined on the European stage this season, with a stunning six strikes. He’s 5/1 to break the deadlock here.
Benfica v Arsenal
It’s certainly been a strange season for Arsenal under Mikel Arteta this term, with a serious inconsistency in results leaving them stuck in midtable in the Premier League. But saying that, they’re heading into their Europa League clash with Benfica on Thursday off the back of one of their better results this season: Sunday’s 4-2 victory over Leeds.
Not only were Arsenal were 3-0 up at half-time for the first time in the Premier League since February 2018, but they also scored four goals at the Emirates Stadium for the first time in the Premier League this season. But arguably of more importance was Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang returning to form with his first ever Premier League hat-trick. Aubameyang has struggled to match his usual standards this season and to put it bluntly, when he’s not scoring the Gunners tend to struggle.
Arteta will hope Aubameyang can now kick on for the rest of the season, starting against Benfica this week, where he is 7/2 to be the first scorer in the first leg. While not performing as badly as the Gunners this season, Benfica have been struggling, finding themselves 13 points off Portuguese league leaders Sporting Lisbon. The home side are 17/10 for the win, with Arsenal the 29/20 favourites.