Europa League 2015/2016

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Europa League 2015/2016

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Europa League: Manchester United – Liverpool FC



A great clash of two traditional English rivals will take place at Old Trafford as Manchester United and Liverpool FC will battle it out in Thursday´s Europa League last 16 second leg. After claiming a highly promising 2:0 home win in the first leg, Liverpool are in a perfect position to book their spot in the quarter-finals but Manchester are looking to take advantage of playing in front of their home crowd to avenge the defeat. What makes the Thursday match even more interesting is the fact that the teams´ coaches van Gaal and Klopp have also been rivals since they were meeting each other in the German Bundesliga where they were in charge of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund respectively.



Manchester United



Manchester have been constantly failing to meet the bold pre-season ambitions. Currently sitting as many as staggering 16 points adrift of the leaders Leicester in the Premier League, United are much more likely to compete for a spot in the top five rather than for the title. Manchester´s Champions League campaign also turned out to be a bitter disappointment. The English side failed to advance from the group stage and they only qualified for the Europa League where they produced yet another fiasco when they got beaten by Danish outsiders Midtjylland in the first play-off round opener. However, van Gaal´s men gave a much better performance in the rematch, trashing the Danes 5:1 and securing their spot in the round of 16. There, United were drawn against Liverpool whom they lost 0:2 in the first leg. Consequently, Manchester need to win by at least three goals in the home replay, which – with respect to their miserable form – does not seem very probable.



Liverpool FC



Liverpool have been very busy in the last couple of weeks. Until recently, the team were involved in four competitions but now they are only left with two – the Premier League and the Europa League. In the Europe´s second-string competition, the Reds have been a way more successful than in the domestic league. One of just a few unbeaten sides, Liverpool are even among the favourites to win the Europa League this year. On the other hand, they have not been overly impressive in any of their games, claiming mostly draws. Just in the group alone, for example, Klopp´s men produced four draws out of the six matches. In the first play-off round, Liverpool made it past Augsburg and they managed to pick up a good result in the first leg of their round of 16 series against Manchester. As Liverpool do not have much to play for in the Premier League, they are likely to focus on their Europa League campaign and they will surely do their hardest to defend the two-goal lead they gained in the first game.



Summary



After losing 0:2 in the first leg, Manchester are looking to turn the tables and claim an advancement-securing victory over Liverpool in their Europa League last 16 tie. Both Manchester and Liverpool have been struggling in the Premier League, which makes the potential triumph in the Europa League the only way to atone for what is going to be an unsuccessful season. The current form and the first leg win favour Liverpool to emerge as the winner of this tie but Manchester are determined to give a great fight back, hoping to overturn the two-goal lead. Can they really make it? Or will Liverpool seal their advancement with another win? We will know by Thursday night.



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Europa League: Tottenham Hotspur - Borussia Dortmund



One of the most attractive Europa League games to be played on Thursday, the clash Tottenham Hotspur vs. Borussia Dortmund will be another interesting confrontation between English and German football. Tottenham came up short against the Germans in the first leg, suffering a trashing 0:3 defeat at the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund but the Spurs were not at full strength in this game and they are looking to avenge the defeat in the home rematch. Kicking off at 9:05 PM (CET), the replay between Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund will be played at the White Hart Lane Stadium in north London.



Tottenham Hotspur



The Spurs´ manager Pochettino decided to rest some of his key players in the first leg at Dortmund, which was generally considered as a sign that he probably wants his side to focus on the domestic campaign and the Premier League title challenge more than on their Europa League performance but the damaging defeat they eventually suffered in Germany was certainly not what they had count on. Borussia asserted their authority for most of the game and their final 3:0 victory was an appropriate result. On Sunday, the Londoners travelled to Aston Villa to take on the home side in the Premier League´s 30th round and they picked up a comfortable 2:0 victory there, staying in contention for the league title. Encouraged by this win, the Spurs are now determined to strike back and beat Dortmund in the home rematch.



Borussia Dortmund



Flourishing in all competitions, Borussia have won nine out of their ten last matches and it is no secret they are looking to claim as many trophies as they can this year, including the Europa League title. After an easy advancement from the group, the Germans knocked out FC Porto in the first play-off round and they already have one foot in the quarter-finals as they hammered Tottenham 3:0 in the first leg of the round of 16. Borussia´s coach Tuchel is not very likely to make too many changes to his line-up as his team are used to a busy schedule and they always want to give their best performance, no matter what competition it is. Yet, there will be some forced changes to the outfit as a few players including Sven Bender will be out due to injury. But the feared attacking trio Reus – Mkhitaryan – Aubameyang are all expected to make their appearance on the pitch.



Summary



After the chastening defeat they suffered at Dortmund, Tottenham´s Europa League hopes are hanging by a thread. On Thursday, they will take on the German giants again and they are determined to make the home advantage count in the fixture. The Spurs´ coach indicated he might forfeit the potential success in the Europa League in order to make his team do their best in the league title race but he also said they have a strong desire to win the home rematch. While overturning the three-goal deficit from the first match might be just too much for the Spurs, they will definitely put up a good fight against Dortmund. To figure out if they can really beat the Germans or not, we will have to wait until Thursday night.



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Europa League: Athletic Bilbao – Sevilla FC



Another great Europa League quarter final game to watch and bet on, the all-Spanish first leg tie between Bilbao and Sevilla will also draw huge attention as Sevilla continue their inspirational quest for unprecedented third consecutive Europa League title. That is right, Sevilla won the Europe´s second string competition in both 2014 and 2015 and they are determined to repeat the impressive feat this year again. But Bilbao, who knocked out another renowned Spanish side Valencia in the previous round, will be a tough opponent. Starting at 9:05 PM (CET), the Europa League clash between Athletic Bilbao and Sevilla FC will be played at the San Mamés Barria stadium in Bilbao.



Athletic Bilbao



After Barcelona and Real Madrid, Bilbao rank among the most successful Spanish sides. The Basque team are six-time Spanish champions and they have also won 23 domestic cups. This season has been quite fruitful for Athletic too. In La Liga, Valverde´s team are currently placed sixth, just one point shy of fifth-placed Celta Vigo. Bilbao´s Europa League campaign began in the group L, which they topped with a highly positive score of 4 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat. In the first play-off round, Athletic made it past prominent French side Olympique Lyon (2:1 on aggregate) and they managed to eliminate their domestic rivals Valencia in the round of 16. After knocking out these two renowned teams, it is more than safe to say that Bilbao´s appearance in the last 8 is well deserved. Bilbao have been heavily relying on their key forward Aduriz who has already scored 8 goals in the competition, currently being the Europa League´s top scorer. We will see if he extends his impressive goal tally in the Thursday clash against Sevilla.



Sevilla FC



Sevilla are true Europa League specialists. Rojiblancos have already won the trophy four times – in 2006 and 2007 (back than it was called the UEFA Cup) and again in 2014 and 2015. While this achievement is unique itself as no other team have ever won the Europa League more than three times, Sevilla are looking to claim another impressive primacy. If they win the title this year again, they will become the first team ever to claim the trophy for the third time in row. So far, Emery´s squad have been sailing through the competition with ease. Sevilla joined the tournament in the first play-off round after they got eliminated out of the Champions League. In their first Europa League tie, Rojiblancos made it past Norwegian side Molde (3:1 on aggregate) and in the round of 16, they dispatched FC Basel (3:0 on aggregate). The quarter final draw pitted Sevilla against their La Liga rivals Bilbao who are currently level on points in the league table. Historically, these two sides are almost equal as well with Sevilla edging the victory count by 64:63 with 31 draws.



Summary



A thrilling and very tight game is expected to take place in Bilbao as the Basque side will host Sevilla in a purely Spanish Europa League quarter final opener. With the head-to-head games record practically equal, it is hard to choose between the pair but with respect to the Sevilla´s glorious Europa League pedigree, the hosts might have slightly better chance of advancing from this interesting tie. Will they take the first step towards progressing to the semi-finals by winning the opener? We will know by Thursday night.



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Europa League: Liverpool FC - Borussia Dortmund



Liverpool will host what is considered the most spectacular game of the Europa League quarter final rematches as it will see a hotly-anticipated clash between the Reds and Borussia Dortmund. After the first leg in Germany ended up in a 1:1 draw, both of these two great teams still have a chance of qualifying for the semi finals. According to Liverpool´s coach manager Klopp, the chances are totally equal at 50/50 but the away 1:1 draw claimed in the first leg slightly favours the English side to advance further. Kicking off at 9:05 PM (CET), the blockbuster Liverpool FC vs. Borussia Dortmund will be played at Anfield Road.



Liverpool FC



Liverpool´s form has been very unstable in the Premier League recently and despite having produced several impressive results in the Europa League, the Reds were regarded the underdogs in their quarter final series against Dortmund. Therefore, the Germans were expected to prevail in the opening fixture but Liverpool gave a surprisingly strong and disciplined performance at Dortmund, keeping the host´s elite strikers at bay and claiming a highly valued 1:1 draw. The biggest favourites to win the entire competition, Borussia dominated the possession in the duel but Klopp´s tactics ensured Liverpool restricted the hosts to few real chances. From this point of view, the 1:1 draw was quite a fair result. Encouraged by this achievement, the Reds gave another solid display in the last league duel as well, destroying Stoke City 4:1. Obviously, the Merseysiders have been finally getting into the desirable shape and they might still produce some stunning results at the end of the season.



Borussia Dortmund



One of just a few European teams yet to taste defeat in the second half of the season, Borussia were the favourites to win the opener of their quarter final series against Liverpool but the Germans only managed to claim a draw as Hummels headed in an equaliser three minutes into the second half. It might well have been the smart tactics and knowledge of Dortmund utilized by the Reds´ current coach Klopp what prevented Borussia from winning the duel. As Klopp was in charge of Dortmund for seven years during which he won two Bundesliga titles and made it to the Champions League final, he knows this team very well and he will certainly prepare great tactics for his outfit in the second leg as well. Unlike their English rivals, Dortmund did not win their last league match, having been held to a 2:2 draw at Schalke in the great Revierderby. After eliminating another English side Tottenham with ease in the round of 16, Dortmund will obviously have their work cut out for them to make it to the last four as the quarter final rematch at Liverpool will be a tough challenge.



Summary



The iconic Anfield Road stadium in Liverpool will be the site of what promises to be a highly attractive and possibly also tight and dramatic Europa League battle as two European elite sides FC Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund will cross their swords in the quarter final replay. The 1:1 draw from the opener combined with the home advantage gives slightly better chances to the English side but in terms of current form and outfit quality, Dortmund have the upper hand, which makes it very hard to determine the favourite of the duel. To find out which of these two renowned sides will eventually make it to the semi finals, we will have to wait until Thursday night.



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Europa League: Villarreal CF – Liverpool F



The other Thursday semi final opener serves a true football delicacy as it features a highly attractive clash of two renowned and currently in-form sides Villarreal and Liverpool. The Yellow submarine have been breezing through their Europa League campaign so far, knocking out some Europe´s heavyweights including Napoli and Leverkusen. But Liverpool, their semi final opponents, do not come up short either – they have beaten both Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund on their way to the last four. With that said, we are sure to be in for a great and entertaining fixture when Villarreal and Liverpool battle it out at El Madrigal.



Villarreal CF



Villarreal began their Europa League journey in the Group E where they finished second with a positive score of 4 wins, 1 draw and 1 defeat. The play-off draw has had no mercy with the Spaniards as it has already pitted them against at least two elite European sides Fiorentina and Leverkusen. But the Yellow submarine gave a great performance in these ties, knocking both of these teams out. Moreover, the Spanish squad only conceded one goal in these four games. In the quarter final, Villarreal took on Sparta Prague who were considerably weakened by multiple absences caused by both injuries and suspension. Therefore, it came as no surprise that Marcelino´s men emerged as the winners of the series, beating their Czech rivals in both matches (2:1 and 4:2). The semi final draw sent the Spanish team against Liverpool who have got in a very good form recently but the Reds will be without some of their important players in the first leg, which might be a huge advantage for the home team.



Liverpool FC



For the last couple of weeks, Liverpool have been finally in the shape their fans were hoping for so long. After a series of good results in the Premier League, the Reds have the coveted top spots within reach and they can still produce a glorious achievement in the Europa League where they are to face Villarreal in the semi final. On their way to the last four, Liverpool have already picked up several impressive results such as eliminating both Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16 and quarter final respectively. Considering these admirable feats and their current form, Liverpool´s hopes of reaching the final can be quite high but there is one thing that gives the coach Klopp a headache prior to the Thursday match – the Merceysiders will miss some of their mainstays in the game, including Benteke (knee), Emre Can and Origi (both ankle) while Skrtel (groin) is a doubt. Let us see if Liverpool pull together to overcome these difficulties and clinch a promising result in Spain.



Summary



A very intense and tight battle can be expected in Villarreal who will host Liverpool in the first leg of their Europa League semi final series. An interesting confrontation between Spanish and English football, the duel promises to be a thrilling display as both of these sides have been in a great form lately and they both have managed to knock out some other European giants. With a spot in the final at stake, only one of them can progress further this time. Which of these two great teams will be happier with the outcome of the first duel? We will know by Thursday night.



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We believe to Liverpool victory
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Europa League: Liverpool FC - FC Sevilla



Football fans have been certainly excited about the big game that will take place on Wednesday as Liverpool will face Sevilla in the Europa League final. The reigning champions, the Spaniards are determined to defend their last year´s title but the Reds are also looking to claim the trophy. As both of these sides have been truly impressive during their Europa League campaigns this year, their upcoming head-to-head clash promises to be a fascinating football display. Starting at 8:45 PM (CET), the match between Liverpool and Sevilla will be played at the St. Jakob Park Stadium in Basel, Switzerland.



Liverpool FC



Liverpool have been quite inconsistent this season. In the domestic competition, the team failed to meet their goals, finishing in the eighth place, which is definitely a disappointing result for the Reds. On the other hand – the domestic league was not their priority in the past weeks as the Klopp´s squad have been mainly focusing on their Europa League campaign lately. Having lost just one out of the 16 matches they have played in the competition this year, the English side have been very convincing on their way to the final. The Reds even knocked out some renowned sides such as Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16 and quarter final respectively. In the last four, Klopp´s men made it past an elite La Liga team Villarreal who they dispatched 3:1 on aggregate. Encouraged by these great results, the Reds are heading into the final in high spirits but unfortunately, they will probably be without their captain Henderson who has been out due to a knee injury.



FC Sevilla



Sevilla seem to be true Europa League specialists. Rojiblancos have already won the trophy four times – in 2006 and 2007 and again in 2014 and 2015. While this achievement is unique itself as no other team have ever won the Europa League more than 3 times, Sevilla are looking to claim another impressive primacy. If they win the title this year again, they will become the first team ever to claim 3 consecutive trophies. So far, Emery´s squad have been mostly sailing through the competition with ease. Sevilla joined the tournament in the first play-off round (after they got eliminated in the Champions League) where Rojiblancos made it past the Norwegian side Molde (3:1 on aggregate) and in the round of 16, they dispatched FC Basel (3:0 on aggregate). It was not until the quarter final when Sevilla got in troubles for the first time. After beating Bilbao in the first leg (2:1), they lost to their La Liga rivals in the rematch (1:2) and it was the nerve-wrecking penalty shootout what eventually sent Sevilla to the last four where they dominated again, sweeping aside Donetsk (5:3 on aggregate).



Summary



Another Spanish side to assert their supremacy this season, Sevilla will attempt to defend their last year´s Europa League title as they will tackle famous Liverpool in the final. Both of these sides are highly motivated to win the fixture as claiming the trophy is the only way for them to qualify for the Champions League next season. Also, both of them have already managed to beat some of the top-notch European teams during their impressive runs, which is just one of many reasons why this Europa League final is certainly one not to miss. To find who will eventually emerge as the new champions, we will have to wait until Wednesday night.
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Europa League: AS Saint Etienne – AEK Athens



Out of the thirty Europa League third qualifying round games scheduled for Thursday, the one between Saint Etienne and AEK Athens should be among the top matches as it will feature a clash between two renowned sides with rich and famous history. Last year, the French made it all the way up to the round of 16 where they got eliminated by FC Basel. Athens, on the other hand, have not been very successful in the past few seasons, which makes them even more eager to produce a good result this year. Kicking off at 9 PM (CET), the clash Saint Etienne versus AEK Athens will be played at the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium in Saint Etienne.



AS Saint Etienne



Ten-time French championships, AS Saint Etienne are the most successful team of the Ligue 1 history. However, all of their league titles are at least 35 years old. The last time this team won the league was in 1981. In 1976, Saint Etienne produced their biggest European achievement so far after they made it to the European Cup (now known as the Champions League) final where they got beaten by Bayern Munich. While the team´s past is very impressive, its recent history is less glorious. The Greens can hardly compete with current French heavyweights such as Paris Saint Germain, Lyon or Monaco. Yet, Galtier´s men enjoyed a good season last year. The finished sixth in the league and were quite successful with their Europa League campaign too as they progressed from a tough Group G that featured Rosenborg, Lazio Roma and Dnepropetrovsk and were only knocked out by FC Basel in the round of 16. Let us see how far Saint Etienne will make it this time. First, they need to eliminate AEK Athens in the third qualifying round, which will not be easy though.



AEK Athens



Eleven-time Greek champions, AEK also had a great pedigree but just like their French rivals, they were mainly claiming the titles decades ago. The last AEK´s title dates back to 1994. As for international honours, Athens were Europa League semi finalists in 1977 and Champions League quarter finalists in 1969. In the past couple of years, AEK failed to produce any major achievement. Five years ago, they made it to the Europa League group stage but they lost five out of the six matches, ending up in the last spot. AEK qualified for this Europa League´s season thanks to the fourth place they earned in their domestic league in the play-offs last year. While the recent results of the team might not be as impressive as they were in the past, there is still one thing they can rely on – AEK´s fans. The team play their home matches at the Olympic Stadium in Athens with a capacity of almost 70,000 people that massively support the players. If the Greeks claim at least a draw in the first leg, they will have a good chance of advancing further ahead of the home rematch.



Summary



One of the stadiums that hosted EURO 2016, the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium in Saint Etienne will witness another great duel on Thursday as it will be the site of an attractive Europa League clash between the home team and AEK Athens. Considering their last year´s results, the French side should have the upper hand in the fixture as well as in the whole series but the Greeks are determined to restore their old glory and put in a great performance in their Europa League duels. To find out which of these two sides will be more satisfied with the outcome of the first match, we will have to wait until Thursday night. [/TD]

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Europa League: FC Luzern – US Sassuolo



The only representative of popular Serie A in the Europa League third qualifying round, US Sassuolo will make their historical debut at a major international tournament as they will take on the Swiss team FC Luzern on Thursday. After just three years in the highest Italian league, Sassuolo claimed the sixth spot in the table last year, leaving several renowned mainstays including AC Milan behind. This year, Neroverdi are looking to impress in the Europa League too. However, to make it to the group stage, they first need to get through the third and fourth qualifying rounds. In the third one, they will pit their strength against FC Luzern. Starting at 7:45 PM (CET), the clash between Luzern and Sassuolo will be played at the Swissporarena in Luzern.



FC Luzern



Founded in 1901, FC Luzern is a football club based in Lucerne, central Switzerland. The team won the highest Swiss league in 1989 and two domestic cups in 1960 and 1992. Over the years, the team have made several appearances at prestigious European championships but they have never produced any major achievement there. In fact, Luzern failed to reach the Europa League group stage in any of their last three occasions as they got eliminated by FC Utrecht in 2010, by KRC Genk in 2012 and by St. Johnstone in 2014. Considering these poor results, Luzern are not expected to make it past Sassuolo either, even though the Italian side have less experience with international matches. Led by former excellent German footballer Markus Babbel, the Swiss side are clear outsiders in this Europa League tie and it would be a surprise if they pulled off a win in the first leg of the series.



US Sassuolo



US Sassuolo were founded in 1920 but it was not until the 2013/2014 season when they got to play in Serie A for the very first time. Back then, the team were struggling and they had a hard time surviving among the Italian elite. The next year, Sassuolo did better, claiming the 12th spot. Last year has been the best season for Neroverdi so far. They were giving solid performances in most of their Serie A matches, claiming several stunning victories over top notch sides including Juventus Torino and Inter Milano. Eventually, Sassuolo finished in the sixth spot, which was a remarkable achievement for this little club. Led by coach Di Francesco, the team mainly consists of Italian players with just three expats, which is rather uncommon in Serie A. Nevertheless, Sassuolo have a strong team spirit and they never give up, which makes up for what they might lack in individual quality. Overall, US Sassuolo are a great and highly competitive side that should have what it takes to beat FC Luzern.



Summary



The Swissporarena in Luzern is about to host an interesting Europa League match as the home team will lock horns with US Sassuolo on Thursday. The Italians will make their historical debut in this encounter but they still will be the favourites of the match as their form and quality should be better than that of the hosts. Will Luzern beat the odds and make the home advantage count in this game? Or will Sassuolo keep up with the great performances they were givin last year and claim a win in the match? We will know by Thursday night.
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