The Europa League is back with the last-32, kicking off the knockout stages of the competition today (February 18). We take a look at six of the biggest clashes you can expect to see.
REAL SOCIEDAD V MANCHESTER UNITED (9.55pm, February 18)
Manchester United have been favourites to win the Europa League this season, but the Red Devils are struggling.
They lost five of their last seven EPL games. Second place on the league table, they’re 10 points behind leaders and derby rivals Manchester City.
Real Sociedad is also struggling in the La Liga, having dropped from first place to fifth. They only won two of their last five games and are 17 points behind table leaders Atletico Madrid.
The match will take place in Turin, Italy, due to travel restrictions between Britain and Spain.
RED STAR BELGRADE V AC MILAN (9.55pm, February 18)
Red Star Belgrade, SerbianSuperLiga title holders, will face off with Serie A stars AC Milan.
AC Milan are just one point behind first place in the Serie A standings this season, neck-to-neck with rivals Inter Milan. All eyes will be on Zlatan Ibrahimovic who returns to the knockout stage of a European competition for the first time in four years (the last time was in 2017 with Manchester United).
The match will take place in Serbia as planned.
WOLFSBERG AC V TOTTENHAM (9.55pm, February 18)
Austrian underdogs Wolfsberg AC will have a lot to prove against Tottenham Hotspur.
The small-time club from southern Austria will try to beat the Spurs with the guidance of Tunisian boss Mo Sahli — who takes comfort in the fact that both teams will play on a level playing field.
“Tottenham is the biggest club WAC has ever faced,” said Sahli. “We are well aware of our role as underdogs and know Tottenham are the favourites but every game starts 0-0. We are really looking forward to these games.”
BENFICA V ARSENAL (12am, February 19)
Arsenal defender Kiernan Tierney, who has been back in training, is expected to make a comeback from injury, though midfielder Thomas Partey will be absent.
All eyes have been on Arsenal’s new signings, with many fans taking issue with Willian’s performances in particular. The Brazilian player arrived at Arsenal on a free transfer from Chelsea last year. Ahead of the Europa League clash, Mikel Arteta addressed the criticisms of his player.
“What he’s doing at the moment, the way he’s training, the way he’s willing to give everything to the team is what I demand. Whether he’s successful in the game is another matter, but it will come with the quality he has,” he said.
Benfica are fourth in the Portuguese league, and have set a record in the Europa League — 26 home games, unbeaten.
The game will not be played in Portugal due to Covid-19 restrictions, but rather in Rome. The second leg will take place in Athens.
LOSC LILLE V AJAX (12am, February 19)
Ajax should be feeling comfortable going into their clash against Ajax — but then again, so should Lille. Both teams are top of the table in their individual leagues.
Ajax are top of the Eredivisie table right now, six points clear with a game in hand. They Dutch side won eight of their last games — and the two before those were draws. In fact, it’s been 13 games since Ajax last lost a match in all its competitions.
Meanwhile, French side Lille is top of the Ligue 1 table with four of their last five games won. They’re in a slightly more precarious position, as they’re only one point clear of PSG, who are in second place.
GRANADA V NAPOLI (12am, February 19)
La Liga’s Granada, currently in eighth place, doesn’t hold a strong chance against Serie A’s Napoli.
Granada are in eight place after failing to win any of their last five league games. Meanwhile Napoli are at a comfortable fifth, winning three of their last five games. They’re only two points behind last year’s Serie A winners Juventus — and 10 points behind table leaders Inter Milan.
LAST 32 - LEG 1:
Dynamo Kyiv v Club Brugge (7pm, February 18)
Real Sociedad v Man United (9.55pm, February 18)
Wolfsberg v Tottenham (9.55pm, February 18)
Olympiacos v PSV (9.55pm, February 18)
Slavia Praha v Leicester City (9.55pm, February 18)
Young Boys v Leverkusen (9.55pm, February 18)
Red Star Belgrade v AC Milan (9.55pm, February 18)
Braga v Roma (9.55pm, February 18)
Krasnodar v Dinamo Zagreb (9.55pm, February 18)
Lille v Ajax (12am, February 19)
Benfica v Arsenal (12am, February 19)
Molde v Hoffenheim (12am, February 19)
M Tel-Aviv v Shakhtar Donetsk (12am, February 19)
Antwerp v Rangers (12am, February 19)
Granada v Napoli (12am, February 19)
RB Salzburg v Villareal (12am, February 19)