After the excitement of the Champions League on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Europa League takes centre stage on Thursday with all four ties far from decided.
Arsenal have work to do and Manchester United need to avoid complacency, while elsewhere and Roma and Ajax could play out a classic, with a cagey but equally intriguing tie expected between Villarreal and Dinamo Zagreb.
More Uncertainty for Arteta
Mikel Arteta’s anger was there for all to see in the aftermath of last week’s first leg 1-1 draw with Slavia Prague. After squandering a host of chances, Nicolas Pepe finally put the Gunners ahead on 86 minutes, before Tomas Holes netted in stoppage time.
A failure to manage games has haunted the Arsenal for over a decade and it is tough to see them keeping a clean sheet at the Sinobo Stadium, with BTTS
Slavia are unbeaten at home in competitive fixtures since losing 3-1 to Inter Milan in the Champions League in November 2019 and are a really solid side, winning all three home games in the pools before drawing against both Leicester and Rangers.
On paper, Arsenal should have enough but football is far more complicated than that. Jindrich Trpisovsky’s side are a steely outfit and against this lacklustre Arsenal team, a home win carries real value at
Red Devils Poised For the Semis
Beaten in the last four in 2019-20, Manchester United are likely heading for the semis again, where they will face either Roma or Ajax.
Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes netted last week in Andalusia to provide a 2-0 advantage against a spirited yet ailing Granada side.
The Nazaries snapped a run of four straight defeats to win 2-1 at Real Valladolid over the weekend, but after an impressive first two-thirds of the season, seem to be falling away, slipping to eight points adrift of the top six in La Liga.
Another United win to zero is
11/10 and looks a likely outcome based on last week’s evidence.
Expect Olimpico Excitement
Roma came away from Amsterdam with a hugely credible 2-1 win, but Thursday’s visitors to the Stadio Olimpico are unlikely to hold anything back.
Ajax, finalists in this competition as recently as 2017, have again regenerated after going out in the semi-finals of the Champions League two seasons ago, with Ryan Gravenbach and Antony their newest kids on the block.
Well clear in the Eredivisie, Erik ten Hag’s men will go all out to qualify, but Roma have a psychological edge as the only team to have beaten the Dutch champions in 2021.
Seven points shy of the top four in Serie A, Paulo Fonseca will be aware this competition is likely to be his best chance of qualifying for the Champions League and, realistically, keeping his job.
The Giallorossi kept their first clean sheet in six in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Genoa but are unlikely to do the same again.
EL Expert Emery to Guide His Side Through
Villarreal ar going almost unnoticed, but hold a 1-0 lead over Dinamo Zagreb thanks to Gerard Moreno’s first-half penalty at the Maksimir and are the favourites to face either Slavia Prague or Arsenal in the last four.
In the dugout is former Gunners boss Unai Emery, a man who is a real Europa League expert, having won this tournament three years in a row while in charge of Sevilla and El Submarino Amarillo are
9/2 in the outright market.
Dinamo reached this stage courtesy of a 3-2 AET win over Tottenham, but the feeling is their hopes of further progress hung on getting a result in Zagreb and they lost 3-0 on their sole previous trip to the Ceramica, albeit 11 years ago.
Villarreal surprisingly went down 2-1 to Osasuna on Sunday but had won their previous four, keeping clean sheets in three of those. The Spanish side are again expected to control proceedings and a repeat win to zero is
*All odds correct at time of writing