It is still in the shadow of the Champions League, but the line-up of 32 participants in the 1/16 final of the Europa League includes a considerable number of teams of the highest European level. Among them, Manchester United, Tottenham, Arsenal and Leicester stand out, the four representatives of a Premier in majority ahead of the 3 of LaLiga (Villarreal, Real Sociedad and Granada) and Serie A (Milan, Rome and Naples).
Leaving aside Real Sociedad’s rival United, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal faces Benfica in a tie between historic teams whose two games will be played on neutral ground due to restrictions due to the pandemic: today at the Olympic Games in Rome and the return next Thursday in Piraeus. Both are poorly classified in their leagues (fourth for Lisbon and 10th for London) and have their lifeline in Europe. The same happens to José Mourinho’s Tottenham, 9th in the Premier League and who visits the modest Austrian Wolfsberger at the Puskas Arena in Budapest. Leicester, 3rd in the English championship, are also favorites against Slavia in Prague.
Milan, against Red Star in Belgrade
Like Granada’s rival Naples, the other Italian teams also play away from home. Milan, after losing the leadership of Serie A to Spezia (2-0), travel to Belgrade with the aim of achieving a result against Red Star that will give them morale ahead of Sunday’s crucial derby against Inter with leadership at stake. Precisely a former ‘Nerazzurro’ player, Dejan Stankovic, is the coach of the Serbian team. Braga (surprising 3rd in Portugal) put Borja Mayoral, Pedro, Pau López, Carles Pérez and Villar’s Roma to the test (3rd in ‘calcium’).
Ajax, without Onana and the unregistered Haller
Bayer Leverkusen, last year’s quarter-finalist, visit the Swiss Young Boys, while one of the most attractive qualifiers faces the leaders of Ligue 1, Lille, and Eredivisie, Ajax, one of the 8 playoffs in the Champions League as third in the group together United, Salzburg, Shakhtar, Olympiacos, Krasnodar, Bruges and Dinamo Kiev. The ‘ajacied’ has two weight losses: the goal André Onana, suspended for a year for doping, and Sébastien Haller, his record signing in January and who is giving a great performance, but who was not registered in Europe due to an incredible computer error .
El Molde-Hoffenheim, at the La Cerámica stadium
Villarreal faces Salzburg in Austria but today there is a match at the Estadio de La Cerámica, the neutral stage of Molde-Hoffenheim due to entry restrictions into Norway as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Another three 1/16 final first leg matches of the Europa League have been transferred to another country for the same reason. They are Real Sociedad-Manchester United, which will be played at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, Wolfsberger-Tottenham at the Puskas Arena in Budapest and Benfica-Arsenal at the Olímpico in Rome. Precisely the fight between Lisbon and Londoners, at the Georgios Karaiskakis in Piraeus, will be the only return match next Thursday to be played on neutral ground.
Dynamo Kiev-Bruges 4:00 p.m.
Young Boys-Leverkusen 18.55 h.
Krasnodar-Dinamo Zagreb 18.55 h.
Red Star-Milan18.55 h.
Royal Society-Man. Utd (Turin) 6:55 p.m.
Wolfsberg-Tottenham (Budapest) 6:55 p.m.
Maccabi Tel Aviv-Shakhtar21.00 h.
Granada-Naples 9:00 p.m.
Molde-Hoffenheim (Vila-Real) 9:00 p.m.
Salzburg-V illarreal 21.00 h.
Benfica-Arsenal (Rome) 9.00 p.m.