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Europa League preview: Man United looks for a way through

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Like the Champions League today, the Europa League will be left with just four teams when the quarterfinals conclude tomorrow with the second leg.

Manchester United is looking for Champions League qualification via the Premier League top four and still have a solid shot at doing so, but they can also lock that up by winning the Europa League. The Red Devils take a 1-1 aggregate back home against Belgian side Anderlecht, and you can bet Jose Mourinho will give this match everything he’s got.

Defensively.

Mourinho, known already as a defend and counter proponent, will likely lean heavily on his defense as they look to advance to the semifinals. He shut down likely Premier League champions Chelsea last time out, doing so by controversially selecting to leave star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the bench along with Henrkih Mkhitaryan. The gamble worked out, and with Marcus Rashford up front, the Red Devils scored a 2-0 win with a different style going forward than they had previously shown with Ibra.

Will Mourinho revert to their previous tactics with Zlatan up front, or will he ride the hot hand against a Belgian side that has already seen off Zenit St. Petersburg and APOEL in these Europa League knockout stages?

Elsewhere, Lyon travels to Turkey to take on Besiktas in a tightly contested match. The French side took the opening leg 2-1 in stunning fashion, coming back from a 1-0 deficit with goals in the 83rd and 84th minute. Still, the match is up for grabs thanks to the away goal by Besiktas, and Lyon will do well to keep in a mentally stable state after the week they had. The French club saw their supporters forced out onto the field in the first leg against Besiktas after Turkish fans rained pyrotechnics down on them from the tier above, and then had their league match against Bastia over the weekend abandoned after players were attacked by opposing fans on the pitch. Now with an away trip to rowdy Turkey, it will be tough to keep in the right frame of mind.

Dutch giants Ajax have a visit to Schalke holding a 2-0 lead after keeping a clean sheet at home and watching Davy Klassen score twice. Schalke has been all over the map this season, so it’s a bit tough to predict who we’ll seen from them at home on Thursday. Their last two Bundesliga matches alone have seen Schalke win 4-1 over Wolfsburg followed by a 2-1 defeat to last-placed Darmstadt. Which Schalke side will show up with the odds stacked against them?

Finally, pesky Celta Vigo hits the road to visit Belgian club KAA Genk after a wild 3-2 first leg in Spain. Celta Vigo has been sparkling to watch at times this year, but their defensive abilities have let them down on more than one occasion (they’ve conceded 51 La Liga goals this season, more than all but five Spanish teams), and if that happens again here, Genk can nick a win as they hold those two away goals.

CCL: Lodeiro from 45; Royer’s diving header — SEA, RBNY lead (video)

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After 45 minutes of their respective CONCACAF Champions League knockout-round quests, things are going unnervingly well for the Seattle Sounders and New York Red Bulls.

[ MORE: FC Dallas disappoint in CCL; Club America flying ]

If you’ve watched Major League Soccer teams try, try and try again — only to eventually fail in spectacular fashion — in CCL over the years, you might say things are going a little too well.

There’s still another 45 minutes to be played on Thursday — plus the return legs next week — but both the Sounders and Red Bulls hold 1-0 halftime leads, and the vitally important away goals which come with it. Nicolas Lodeiro’s 45-yard, first-time lob of the Santa Tecla (El Salvador) goalkeeper in the 15th minute has already been eternally etched into the memories of Sounders fans.

Just 15 minutes later, Daniel Royer perfectly executed the diving header and got on the end of Bradley Wright-Phillips’ curling ball into the box to Jesse Marsch’s side ahead of Honduran side CD Olimpia.

Villarreal DF Semedo charged with attempted murder

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MADRID (AP) A Spanish judge has charged Villarreal defender Ruben Semedo with attempted murder and ordered him to be temporarily detained without bail.

Court officials in Lliria say on Thursday the Portuguese player is also charged with assault, robbery, illegal detention, and illegal possession of firearms.

Semedo testified before a judge on Thursday, and left the court in handcuffs.

The 23-year-old Semedo was detained early Tuesday, accused of tying up, assaulting and threatening another man last week. Authorities say he and two other men allegedly held the victim captive while they robbed his apartment.

Semedo’s agents told Spanish media the player denies any wrongdoing.

Villarreal on Tuesday said it was investigating Semedo and would take appropriate disciplinary action.

Villarreal signed Semedo from Sporting Lisbon last summer for a reported fee of $17 million.

Wenger: Arsenal “complacent, had no ideas” in Ostersunds loss

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Perhaps Sunday’s League Cup final had already reached the forefront of their minds, but Arsene Wenger admonished his players, whom he said were “complacent, not focused” and “had no ideas” for much of Thursday’s Europa League defeat, at home, to Swedish side Ostersunds.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule | Man United vs. Chelsea ]

The Gunners advanced to the round of 16 on the back of their 3-0 first-leg victory last week, but Wenger was understandably displeased by the effort he saw and expressed such feelings in no uncertain terms, before quickly easing up and praising the fact they were able to pull back a goal against the current fifth-place team from Sweden — quotes from the BBC:

“We were not at the races in the first half,” said Wenger, who saw his side booed off at half-time and full-time. I think in the second half it was much better and we should have scored a few goals.

“In the first half, we were in trouble and in danger because we were complacent, not focused and were open every time we lost the ball. We had no ideas with the ball and that’s why we were in trouble.

“We responded very well because we did the job to qualify, but that’s what we have to take from the night and that’s all.”

With Arsenal now trailing fourth-place Chelsea by eight points (and seven back of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur), winning the Europa League might just be the Gunners’ last chance at qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Batshuayi racially abused by Atalanta fans

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Borussia Dortmund striker Michy Batshuayi says he was subject to racist chants from Atalanta fans during a Europa League game in Italy.

The Belgium international, on loan from Chelsea, tweeted:

Dortmund advanced to the round of 16 by drawing 1-1 to beat Atalanta 4-3 on aggregate on Thursday.

The game was played at Mapei Stadium in Reggio Emilia because Atalanta’s home stadium is unsuitable for UEFA games.

There have been several incidents of racism at Serie A matches this season.