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Europa League Draw has Definitive ‘Strong’ Side

There was certainly one similarity between the quarter-final draws for the Champions League and Europa League on Friday.

That was that it produced one really strong side of the draw – what you may consider equivalent to a ‘group of death’ – and another where some of the supposed ‘less fancied sides have been placed.

That is not to say any of the eight quarter-finalists in Europe’s second-tier competition are not there on merit, nor are pushovers.

Yet if you consider that three of four teams this Sbotop writer considers the favourites have been potentially paired together, then it could leave the competition wide open for a surprise.

There already has been one big surprise, of course, after Belgian team Union Saint-Gilloise shocked Union Berlin with a 3-0 victory to advance as 6-3 aggregate winners – a result which sparked scenes of delight amongst the home faithful.

UEFA – Champions League
Manchester City
Bayern Munich
1X2 Manchester City 1.90
Manchester City Asia Handicap -0.50 @ 1.91
Over 2.75 @ 1.83
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

When you assess the Europa League betting odds, you can see why they are the least fancied of those remaining in the tournament but, if they can despatch the team which knocked out Ajax and is faring well in the Bundesliga, then why should another German outfit in Bayer Leverkusen hold any fear.

Likewise, Feyenoord can await their test with Roma, conquerors of Real Sociedad, with confidence after they equaled the record for the biggest Europa League knockout win.

Their 7-1 thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk on Thursday evening not only secured an 8-2 aggregate success but matched Lyon’s victory over AZ Alkmaar by the same scoreline in 2017.

That is one side of the draw; the other is what I consider to be the ‘strong’ pool.

Certainly, Juventus can focus all their attentions on this competition as a way to reach next season’s Champions League.

It is their only realistic path after they were docked points domestically by an Italian football court investigating their transfer dealings.

They are appealing their 15-point Serie A deduction but, if unsuccessful, the Bianconeri will know success in this competition will pave the way for them to return to Europe’s top tier next term.

They will meet Sporting Lisbon, who thrillingly knocked out Arsenal in the quarter-finals, at a time when Max Allegri’s squad appears to be strengthened with the likes of Federico Chiesa, Angel Maria, and Paul Pogba possibly all back for this encounter.

And that leaves one tie between Manchester United and Sevilla, who edged out Fenerbahce of Turkey.

Joan Jordan and Erik Lamela's goals in the first leg of the Europa League secured Sevilla's spot in the quarter-finals
Sevilla’s Alex Telles in action with Fenerbahce’s Michy Batshuayi

Now, granted, the current Sevilla side may lack the depth in class of some of their more recent teams, but there is a reason they have triumphed in this competition a record six times – most recently three years ago when they saw off Inter Milan in an exciting final.

Their pedigree is clear and all of those successes have been since 2006 so, even accounting for their lowly league position this term, here is a team which knows how to deliver Europa League highlights.

In addition, Sevilla knocked the Red Devils out at the semi-final stage in 2020 after sending them packing in the Champions League two seasons previously.

On saying that, United have already despatched Barcelona and Real Betis enroute to here so the 2017 winners – who also met Sociedad in the group stages – can look forward to facing Spanish opposition for a seventh and eighth time in mid-April.

Who will come out on top?

It is hard to tell but the smart money will be on United, Juventus, Roma and Leverkusen reaching the last four.




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