The Europa league returns tonight with an even more action-packed schedule than the Champions league.
This year’s competition has been on hold since 12th March due to COVID-19 but will now make its comeback with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final being played across four cities in Germany: Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen.
Two last-16 games will be played as a single-leg tie in Germany (Inter Milan vs Getafe and Sevilla vs Roma) as their first-leg games were postponed. Whilst the remaining second-leg ties will be played behind closed doors at the home sides’ stadiums on 5-6th August.
Last-16 games (5-6th August)
Copenhagen vs Istanbul Basaksehir (0-1 aggregate)
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Wolfsburg (2-1 aggregate)
Manchester United vs LASK (5-0 aggregate)
Inter Milan vs Getafe (one-off tie)
Bayer Leverkusen vs Ranger (3-1 aggregate)
Sevilla vs Roma (one-off tie)
Basel vs Eintracht Frankfurt (3-0 aggregate)
Wolves vs Olympiacos (1-1 aggregate)
Quarter-finals (10-11th August)
Wolfsburg / Shakhtar Donetsk vs Frankfurt / Basel
LASK / Man. United vs İstanbul Basaksehir / Copenhagen
Inter / Getafe vs Rangers / Leverkusen
Olympiacos / Wolves vs Roma / Sevilla
Semi-Finals (16th August)
Winner QF 4 vs Winner QF 2
Winner QF 3 vs Winner QF 1
Final (21st August) TBC
My games to watch - Inter Milan vs Getafe
This game is one of two games whose first legs were postponed, so is set to be an exciting knockout tie between two strong teams.
Inter will be the favourites heading into this last-16 game with the likes of Romelu Lukaku (23 goals) and Lautaro Martinez (15 goals) impressing throughout the season.
Alexis Sanchez has begun to return to his pre-Manchester United form and will also test Getafe’s defence.
Antonio Conte has employed a robust three-at-the-back formation this season and his team has the best defensive record in Serie A, having only conceded 36 goals.
Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar have had standout years with the latter being linked to a move to Tottenham Hotspur or Manchester City this summer.
Inter were knocked out in the group stages of the Champions league and will expected to reach the latter stages of the Europa league.
However, this game will be no walk in the park for Conte’s team as Getafe have shown they have a shock result in them. This was on show back in February when they upset last year’s Champions league semi-finalists Ajax beating them 3-2 over two legs.
Jose Bordalas’ team dominated the Dutch giants in the first leg beating them 2-0. Jaime Mata will be a danger for Inter’s imperious defence as will the experienced striker Angel Rodriguez.
The one-legged format may give the Spaniards some much-needed motivation as they’ll travel to Germany having not won in six games, which saw them slump to eighth in the league thus missing out on a European place next season.
Overall, Inter should progress into the quarter-finals but this game should provide plenty of attacking flair from both sets of players.
Sevilla vs Roma
This game will also be a one-legged affair and pits two formidable teams against each other in what is sure to be a tightly-contested match.
Sevilla are the most decorated side in Europa league history having won the trophy five times. In fact, they are the only side to ever retain the cup, having won it in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
They’ll go into the game in Germany in impressive form, having not lost since La Liga restarted as they climbed into the top four by the end of the season.
Julen Lopetegui has relied on his accomplished midfield trio of Fernando, Ever Banega and Luuk de Jong constantly this season and Roma may find it tough to break past these three.
Lucas Ocampos will provide the Andalusians with some attacking prowess having been on the scoresheet 14 times this season. They’ll also hope Munir can continue his fine form in this competition having scored five goals in five appearances in Europe.
Much like their Spanish counterparts, Roma also have a vast amount of experience throughout their team. Edin Dzeko continues to defy his age and is their top scorer with 16 goals and seven assists in all competitions.
Paulo Fonseca also has Aleksandar Kolarov, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling available which will be a huge bonus as all have impressed in Europe’s elite competitions for years.
This will be a cagey affair as both teams are littered with players who know how to win on Europe’s mainstage.
Who could win the Europa League?
Manchester United have all but secured a place in the quarter-finals as they go into their second leg against LASK with a five-goal advantage.
The Red Devils would then face either FC Copenhagen or Istanbul Basaksehir and United should have enough to progress against either of these teams.
Bruno Fernandes is the competition’s top scorer with six goals and has been influential in United’s top four success having joined in January.
With also Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Paul Pogba in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad, it’s very hard to see any team being able to keep the free-scoring fivesome at bay.
Inter Milan are also among the favourites to lift the trophy. Conte has done a valiant job this season and a European trophy will restore their position as one of Europe’s giants again.
The Italians main obstacle will be against Bayer Leverkusen in the quarter-finals unless Rangers overturn their 3-1 defeat when they travel to Leverkusen.
The Germans just missed out on a Champions league spot and will be raring to go as they won’t have played competitively since the Bundesliga finished back in June.
Spearheaded by Kai Havertz, who’s been told he will not leave for Chelsea before their European journey finishes, and with Kevin Volland and Karim Bellarabi as strong supporting cast members, they’ll be confident in their quest for European silverware.
I’m backing Manchester United to win the competition, thus adding to their impressive trophy cabinet.
Author: Jon Bazley
I am a 21-year-old Sports Journalism student at Southampton Solent University. If not kicking, catching or hitting a ball, then I’m almost certainly watching the professionals do it on TV. I strongly believe that there are never enough Zinedine Zidane compilations on YouTube! Despite my favourite sport being football, supporting Bristol City, I am a keen admirer of several other sports, including cricket, tennis and darts. Unfortunately, the dream of becoming a professional athlete disappeared very quickly, so I thought I would love to write about those who are living the dream. I hope to create interesting and formal opinionated pieces for you which I hope you’ll enjoy.