What a week we’ve had with European soccer action thus far. We were able to see how the semi-final rounds will look for the UEFA Champions League tournament and now the gears switch over to the Europa League.
Last week, Arsenal had a tough competitor in Slavia Praha. Villareal won by a bare minimum and the Ajax-Roma game showed it’s high talented caliber. So, what will this week bring? Here are my picks for this week along with who I believe will move onto the final four.
Tough, Yet Closest Matches!
Granada vs. Manchester United: Aggregate 0-2: Manchester.
The first leg of this matchup was quite the close affair. While ball possession was mainly had by the English side at 68%, the Spanish side managed to only giveaway 13 shots and 3 shots on target to United. Meaning, that while passes were flowing, the defensive game by Granada was quite cumbersome at times to a United team firing on all cylinders offensively.
Now the second leg of this match will be played at Old Trafford. While United have been winless in their last 3 matches in the competition at home (D2, L1), this could be a chance to turn that drought around. Marcus Rashford continues to be in great form and in fact, has been a scoring machine having scored in 8/10 matches in this European competition this season.
For United, the key will be to create chances along the wings and have Cavani distract the defense. Meanwhile, for Granada, this is quite challenge to overcome as they will need to be very aggressive on all ends.
My score prediction for this match today is a 2-1 victory for United who will then advance to the final four.
Ajax vs. AS Roma: Aggregate 2-1 Roma.
What an incredible match we are about to have!
Last week, Ajax maintained ball possession 66% of the time but it was Roma’s creativity that set them apart.
However, if you are Roma you know not to sit on your laurels especially against this dangerous Ajax. For Roma, it will extremely important not to let the likes of Tagliafico, Davy Klaassen and Tadic get super ball control. If Roma allows this to be the case, consider this match to be a much closer thriller!
Meanwhile for Ajax, a tall order is up ahead but not impossible to overcome. Ajax will need to essentially find ways to have Tagliafico involved and creating opportunities from the wings. Defensively, Ajax will have to go with a back four formation to keep Pellegrini, Pedro and Dzeko under control.
I believe this match will go to penalties. Should that be the case, this is where I see Pau Lopez being a hero for Roma and moving them onto the final four.
FIGHT ISN’T OVER! ARSENAL VS. SLAVIA PRAHA ROUND 2
Talk about going in all or nothing!
Slavia Praha has proven yet again, they are here to battle and will fight with whatever means necessary.
Eden Arena will be home to another thrilling match between these two titans. For Arsenal, it will be necessary to find a way to get Pepe in the game early. He showed he could be a game-changing factor and it was thanks to him this match ended tied rather than 1-0 Slavia.
Meanwhile for Slavia, their motivation has got to stay alive. Slavia will be looking to reach a European semi-final for the first time since 1995-1996 when they lost to Boudreaux.
For some reason, I believe this will be the upset of the Europa League. Slavia has been a fighting and gritty team! I see this game ending 1-0 Slavia.
Could Unai Emery Redeem Himself?
Villareal vs. Dinamo Zagreb: Aggregate 1-0 Villareal.
If you didn’t watch the first leg on this, you missed out a physical match for sure.
Villareal and Dinamo collided for easily one of the most physically demanding matches in the first round. Dinamo is coming off a huge victory against a Tottenham side that sat back and hoped for an easy win. Yeah, big mistake!
Meanwhile, Villareal are on a collision course as they have won each of their last 7 games, making it the best-ever winning run in major European competition for themselves. The adding factor to this is no other than Ex-Arsenal Unai Emery coach looking to redeem himself! After being sacked from Arsenal, Emery has strengthen Villareal and here they have a chance to make it all worthwhile.
For Villareal, the opportunity is so close and they need to play their hearts out today. The likes of Moreno, Bacca and Ruben Pena should be hungrier than ever before.
Meanwhile for Dinamo, you best hope to keep control of this game while you can. There is only so much your goalie can keep out until it becomes too much to handle. I am going with my gut here and predicting Villareal to set themselves apart especially at home, 2-0 victory for Villareal.
So, yeah those are my picks for this week! If you would like another set of options make sure to check out the Yellow Card Podcast! Brought to you by Couch Guy Sports and while you’re at it, give the boys a follow!
~Diego Galvis (@Diego_TheDJ on Twitter).
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