Europa League preview: Man United looks for a way through

Getty Images
0 Comments

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.