FST’s guide to the Europa League Quarter Finals

FST’s guide to the Europa League Quarter Finals
Simon Winter
Simon Winter
August 7, 2020
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Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.

The 2019/20 UEFA Europa League has reached the Quarter Finals, and early next week, the competition’s eight remaining combatants will face off for a place in the last four.

Representatives from seven different countries will gather in Germany to contest a fascinatingly diverse Europa League climax, and with a spot in next season’s Champions League the prize alongside a stunning piece of silverware, a keen competitive edge is anticipated.

Ahead of the four quarter final bouts scheduled for Monday 10 and Tuesday 11 of August, we’ve taken a closer look at each of the teams hoping to make the UEL final in Cologne on the 21st.

Remember – we’ll be covering all the action extensively with match previews and betting tips on our Europa League predictions page.


Monday, August 10

Manchester United vs FC Copenhagen

Man Utd celebrate after Bruno Fernandes goal

20:00 kick-off at the RheinEnergieStadion

Odds

Man Utd win: 2/7

Draw: 17/4

FC Copenhagen win: 19/2

Tournament favourites Manchester United have already secured Champions League football for next season through a third placed Premier League finish, though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems determined to end his first full campaign in charge with a trophy.

The Norwegian will pit his tactical wits against his compatriot Ståle Solbakken in the FC Copenhagen dugout this week in a game that United will feel they should win with comfort. However, the Danes have yet to be overawed or outclassed on the continent this season.

How did they get here?

Despite fielding a mix of bit-part, fringe and young players throughout, Manchester United cruised to top spot in the UEL Group L, ahead of AZ, Partizan and Astana, laying the foundations for progression on a trio of fine wins at Old Trafford.

In the Round of 32, United made light work of Belgian champions Club Brugge, hammering the Blauw-Zwart 5-0 at the Theatre of Dreams after a 1-1 first leg draw in West Flanders. United dished out a similar 5-0 beating to Austria’s LASK in Linz before completing the job with a 2-1 win in Manchester in mid-week.

In contrast, Copenhagen made hard work of their Group B campaign, winning just two of their six matches to finishing behind first place Malmo and Dynamo Kiev in third.

In the Round of 32, Copenhagen eliminated Scottish champions Celtic 4-2 over two legs, before they recovered from 1-0 first leg deficit to knock out recently crowned Turkish title winners Istanbul Basaksehir in the Last 16.

Have they met before?

United and Copenhagen have a little history – the sides shared a Champions League group all the way back in the 2006/07 season in a section that the Premier League giants eventually topped with the Danes finishing last.

With Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney in tow, United beat Copenhagen 3-0 in the clubs’ first meeting at Old Trafford, though Paul Scholes, John O’Shea and Kieran Richardson bagged the goals.

In the return fixture, Copenhagen recorded a shock 1-0 win at the Telia Parken thanks to a late strike from Marcus Allback to leave a United side, with current boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer up front, red faced.

Players to watch

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s determination to land the Europa League trophy should ensure that United roll out the big guns for Monday’s quarter final – and that could spell big trouble for Copenhagen.

In Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes, United have a trio of match-winners ready to take aim, while Mason Greenwood, who enhanced his reputation with some goal-scoring performances in the early parts of the Europa League campaign, also has the potential to swing the game in his team’s favour.

Copenhagen’s two-goal hero against Basaksehir – Jonas Wind – has been making waves in Denmark this season, while experienced midfielder campaigner Rasmus Falk Jensen and ex-Man Utd fullback Guillermo Varela are also worth keeping an eye on.


Inter Milan vs Bayer Leverkusen

Inter Milan midfielder Christian Eriksen

20:00 kick-off at the Merkur Spiel-Arena

Odds

Inter Milan win: 23/20

Draw: 5/2

FC Copenhagen win: 11/5

Two of the Europa League’s dark horses, Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen, meet in Duesseldorf in an intriguing Quarter Final clash on Monday evening. Both clubs endured unsuccessful Champions League campaigns before their demotion to the UEL, and managers Antonio Conte and Peter Bosz will be desperate to avoid a second dose of continental disappointment this season.

How did they get here?

Inter Milan joined the Europa League at the Round of 32 stage back in February, after they failed to make the cut in a tough Champions League group they shared with Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund.

With Romelu Lukaku’s goals key, the Serie A behemoths pushed Bulgarian club Ludogorets aside with a 4-1 aggregate score, before a nervy 2-0 win in the Last 16 against Spain’s Getafe set them up for Monday’s quarter final.

Like Inter, Bayer Leverkusen were dealt a poor hand in the Champions League and the German’s third place finish in a strong section behind Juventus and Atletico Madrid saw them pushed into the tournament’s sister competition.

Bayer came through a tough looking test against Portuguese title holder Porto in the Last 32 with impressive ease, running up a 5-2 win over two legs, and a 4-1 double-headed triumph over Scottish outfit Rangers followed in the Last 16.

Have they met before?

Inter Milan and Bayer Leverkusen have locked horns on the continent before, but we have to go all the way back to the 2002/03 season to dig out their only competitive meetings.

Back when the tournament had an elongated format, the clubs met in the Champions League’s second group stage, where Inter beat Leverkusen both home and away.

A first half brace from Luigi Di Biagio helped Inter to force a 3-2 win at the San Siro in the sides’ first encounter, before strikes from Obafemi Martins and Emre allowed the Nerazurri to record a 2-0 victory in Germany a couple of months later.

Romelu Lukaku on his Inter Milan debut

Players to watch

Romelu Lukaku, Marcelon Brozovic and Lautaro Martinez are members of a star-studded cast at Inter, and former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte’s unique transfer market strategy also means that alongside the aforementioned Belgian hitman, there is a strong ex-Premier League presence in their squad.

Ex-Spurs schemer Christian Eriksen and former Man Utd pair Ashley Young and Alexis Sanchez are among their number, while Victor Moses is also on the pay roll.

Bayer Leverkusen’s squad is heavily dusted with exciting and in-demand young players like Leon Bailey, Edmond Tapsoba, Florian Wirtz and Moussa Diaby, though the jewel in the crown is undoubtedly the mercurially talented Kai Havertz.

Leverkusen’s 5th place Bundesliga finish looks relatively modest, though Bayer were pushing hard for a place in the top two until the final throes of the campaign.


Tuesday, August 11

Marcel Koller Basel

Shakhtar Donestk vs FC Basel

20:00 kick-off at the VELTINS-Arena

Odds

Shakhtar Donestk win: 21/20

Draw: 23/10

FC Basel win: 13/5

2009 winners Shakhtar Donetsk meet swiss side Basel in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday in one of the most difficult to call quarter final match-ups. With a huge Brazilian influence key, Shakhtar have real star-quality on paper, though a robust Basel team under Marcel Koller have a habit of upsetting the odds.

How did they get here?

Ukrainian champions and seasoned continental campaigners Shakhtar Donestsk were cut loose from the Champions League at the beginning of the year after a poor showing in a group they shared with Man City, Atalanta and Dinamo Zagreb.

Wins over Benfica in the Round of 32 and Wolfsburg in the Last 16 provided evidence to suggest that this Shakhtar team are more comfortable at the lower Europa League level, however, replicating their incredible 2009 tournament win should prove extremely tough.

Basel meanwhile, have been immersed in the UEL since the competition proper got under way in August last year, and after a string of impressive group performances, the Swiss side sailed through knockout ties against APOEL and Eintracht Frankfurt without conceding a single goal.

Have they met before?

Shakhtar Donetsk and Basel were continental foes before when they were paired in the same Champions League group during the 2008/09 season.

Goals from current Man City star Fernandinho and fellow Brazilian Jadson helped the Ukrainians to a win on match day win in Switzerland in September that year, before current Chelsea winger Willian got among the goals in a 5-0 Shakhtar win in the return fixture in November.

Donetsk’s brace of victories over Basel wasn’t enough to earn them a top two finish however, while whipping boys Basel finished rock bottom with just one point from six outings.

Fabian Frei Basel

Players to watch

Traditionally, Shakhtar Donetsk squads have had a real South American flavour, and this year’s team hits all the same notes.

21-year-old Dodo is a talent in defence, while Taison, Marlos and Tete are midfielders of Brazilian origin with technique to burn. Up front, leading marksman Junior Moraes carries the most goal threat – the 33-year old has already bagged 22 goals this season.

For Basel, midfield pair Fabian Frei and Kevin Bua are enjoying productive campaigns, while young centre-half Omar Aderete has also caught the eye.

Italian winger Raoul Petretta is a regular supplier of chances, while veteran Valentin Stocker can also provide thrust from deep.


Wolves vs Sevilla

Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio

20:00 kick-off at the Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena

Odds

Wolves win: 11/5

Draw: 9/4

Sevilla win: 5/4

Wolves enter unknown territory in the latter stages of a continental competition, having not competed in Europe since the early 80s. Wanderers face a battle-hardened Sevilla side in their quarter final on Monday, who have buckets of Europa League pedigree.

How did they get here?

Wolves’ arduous journey to the quarter final of this season’s Europa League started all the way back in the competition’s early qualification rounds in July 2019.

Wanderers have played a whopping 16 fixtures to make it to the last eight, the latest of which came in tense 1-0 win over Greek side Olympiakos in mid-week.

Sevilla topped their UEL Group section before Christmas, taking more points (15) than any other club competing in the tournament’s first stage.

After scraping through a surprisingly difficult double header against CFR Cluj in the Round of 32, Sevilla showed their class with a superb, dominant 2-0 win over a fancied Roma side in the Last 16.

Have they met before?

Wolves and Sevilla have never crossed paths in Europe before, which is unsurprising given Wanderers’ lack of continental involvement over the past few decades.

With three tournament wins in the last six years, Sevilla are renowned Europe League experts, and while much of the personnel has changed since their last victory in 2016, the nous at the club remains.

Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Raul Jimenez (29)

Players to watch

Wolves have earned a reputation in the Premier League as one of the division’s most tactically well-drilled teams, and while their collective mindset is their biggest strength, there are still players that can provide creativity and off the cuff individualism in their ranks.

Adam Traore, the Premier League’s most fouled player last season, can often prove impossible to stop, while talismanic centre-forward Raul Jimenez is a highly coveted and highly skilled goal scorer.

Like many of the technically gifted teams in La Liga, Sevilla are a possession-based team that can match Wolves instruction for instruction when it comes to how well they are tactically organised.

Argentine pair Lucas Ocampos and Ever Banega are the magic providers at the club, while Munir El Haddadi’s running and Sergio Reguilon’s marauding surges from left-back are also worth watching out for.


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