UEFA Europa League

UEFA Europa League Live Stream

Manchester United, Slavia Prague, Roma and Villarreal host the return legs of the Europa League quarterfinals, having earned an advantage (some bigger, others smaller) after last week’s results.

Manchester United have the biggest advantage of all, having beaten Granada 0-2 in Spain a week ago. Marcus Rashford opened the scoring in the 31st minute and Bruno Fernandes scored the second goal from the penalty spot in added time to give United a massive advantage. The Red Devils can... afford to lose by one goal, and even if the… unthinkable happens and they lose 0-2, they will still have the chance to save the situation in extra time. If last week’s 0-2 had been a… lucky result against a much stronger rival, then maybe United’s advantage wouldn’t look so “they are almost qualified for the semifinals”. But the first leg’s result was no accident, and there is no doubt that United are a much-much better team than Granada, therefore the possibility to see a massive surprise at Old Trafford looks close to non-existent. Granada have already impressed in the competition, this was the first time ever the club participated in a UEFA competition, they made it to the last 32, then to the last 16, even to the quarterfinals, and their main target at the moment has to be to leave the competition with their head held high, playing one last good game against a huge rival away from home.

Arsenal must have thought that they had won the game last week when Nicolas Pépé opened the scoring in the 86th minute, but Slavia shocked them with an added-time equalizer. Tomáš Holeš made it 1-1 to give his team a small but… existent advantage. If the game in Prague ends in a second draw, but a goalless one, it will be Slavia who will earn the ticket to the semifinals. Another detail the Czech side has going for them (other than the advantage they earned last week thanks to their away goal), is that both before the first leg and now, they are considered outsiders, they are not the ones expected to qualify “no matter what” from this tie. That’s Arsenal, not only because they are… Arsenal, but also because the Europa League presents the Gunners with their best, at the moment, chance of playing in the Champions League next season. Slavia will win the championship title in Czechia and have reached the Europa League quarterfinals, this is a successful season for them; Arsenal are sitting no higher than 9th in the Premier League, and if they get eliminated by Slavia (not a… much bigger “name”), it will only add to their 2020-21 misery…

Roma host Ajax having beaten them 1-2 in Amsterdam a week ago, a game that went… “well, far beyond imagination” for the Rome side in the second half; Pau López, their goalkeeper, denied an Ajax player from the penalty spot in the 53rd minute, saving them from going 2-0 down. In just four minutes, Lorenzo Pellegrini equalized, and not just that, but Brazilian Ibañez scored as well, in the 87th minute, to give Roma a huge advantage ahead of the return leg. The Giallorossi can… afford to lose 0-1, and even if they lose 1-2, they can still try sort things out in extra time. Ajax have proven over and oven again that they can score twice anywhere, against any rival, so maybe it will come down to how many times Roma will manage to hurt the Dutch side scoring one, two, or more goals.

Last, Villarreal host Dinamo Zagreb, having done more than 50% of the job in the first leg, in Croatia, last week, winning 0-1 there. It is a fragile advantage, just one goal, especially if Dinamo score first things will get particularly tricky for Villarreal (if they lose 1-2 they are out), but as things stand, Villarreal are the favourites. Just like Slavia against Arsenal, Dinamo are not really under too much pressure, as they have already gone further in the competition than what anyone expected. If they get eliminated now, their 2020-21 Europa League campaign will still be remembered with pride back home for years. Villarreal on the other hand, if they get eliminated, it will be a massive failure for them. Plus, they find themselves in Arsenal’s shoes, in the sense that the Europa League presents them with their best chance of reaching the Champions League. Even if they eliminate Dinamo they will still have to go through the semifinals and win the final if they are to earn that precious Champions League ticket, it is not like eliminating Dinamo comes “as a guaranteed package” with a UCL ticket, but at least they will still have hope. Given how things are in La Liga’s table, finishing in the top four looks like a… scientific fiction scenario...

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