We are into the knock out stages of the UEFA Europa League, and we have some mouth watering ties that has been set up, so you can expect all teams to go after the victory especially since the reward is a direct place in the UEFA Champions League first round proper.
Manchester United travel to Liverpool after losing this weekend to West Brom to bring their confidence a bit down, but winning this competition is extremely important considering the fact that the winner goes directly to the main round of the Champions League. While van Gaal thinks United will struggle to deliver a Champions League spot directly through their league position, they will be forced to play this tournament seriously. United are expected to start with potentially their best attacking lineup with Ashford, Martial, Memphis and Mata up front to give them the best chance of stealing an away goal. United will take heart form the fact that Liverpool defence has conceded goals against them earlier in the season as well against poor teams like Palace, Sunderland, West Ham, Norwich etc.
Liverpool will want to rely on their offensive firepower in Origi, Benteke, Firmino, Sturridge and Coutinho to help them deliver a strong performance after winning this weekend against Palace coming from behind. Klopp will continue to chop and change his defence across competitions since he is left with only a few fit defenders heading into this encounter. Liverpool have conceded goals in 3 out of their 4 Europa League games due to the changing of the defence. Liverpool offensive unit has now scored in 6 out of 7 games played recently with only the 0-0 against Augsburg being their only blank. With Man United now conceding goals in 5 out of their last 6 games, one can expect their leaky defence to again concede tonight.
The price for both teams to score its extremely high and appealing, and there is a lot of heated action when these 2 teams meet up, so I expect both teams will score in this encounter.
Basel and Sevilla take part in what should be a good action packed encounter in the knockout stages of the Europa League. Sevilla who are the defending champions come into this encounter aiming to seal off the goals early on especially with a with a big game coming against Real Madrid after the second leg. Sevilla have come to this contest scoring in all of their recent games to keep the momentum on the offensive side. They have over the years tended to focus on this contest and will go out to go and take that critical away goal that can help them progress much like they did against Molde by beating them 3-0 away from home. Sevilla will be expected to start with either Gameiro or Llorente in a 4-2-3-1 lineup with the other of the 2 coming off the bench. Defensively, Sevilla hasn’t been too great recently conceding goals 4 out of their last 5 games in all competitions, while in 6 straight games away from home, so that is an area that will be off concern for Unai Emery.
Basel have been entertaining throughout their run in Europe. They have played some good football and high scoring ties against teams like St. Etienne, Belenenses and Fiorentina which makes you believe that this tie will be no less action packed. 3 out of their 4 home ties had at least 3 goals in them with Basel scoring 2 goals in 3 out of those 4 to try and hold on to home ground advantage. At home on General in the league, Basel have been tigers on the prowl losing just one game to Grasshopper in the entire season. They are dominating their home league, winning by 14 points so can afford to focus on this competition now. Defensively they have some opportunities too improve as they have conceded goals in 5 out of their 8 Europa League ties played so far, so one can expect another entertaining encounter.
Both these teams will try to take advantage of their offensives to try and score a goal for a lead heading into the second leg, and this makes for an entertaining tie with over 2.5 goals being the best avenue into this game.
Athletic Bilbao come into the game against Valencia on the back of some good scoring form winning their last 3 games scoring 2 goals, including a strong 3-0 victory against Valencia away from home. Tonight Bilbao welcome Valencia to the San Mames, and will hope to continue their good scoring form as they are now the 3rd highest scorers behind Barcelona and Real Madrid in the league. Aduriz (17 goals), Inaki William (7 goals) and Raul Garcia (4 goals) have been leading the offensive lineup for Bilbao. Their form has been good coming into this game losing just 1 of their last 6 games in all competitions and have lost just 3 games at home all season to Barcelona, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad. They will aim to continue on their merry scoring ways and I expect this to be a heated encounter between the 2 rivals.
Valencia are a mixed bag when it comes to form, after struggling for the longest time, Gary Neville finally got his team into shape. They went on a 5 game winning streak before they got into the loss, win, loss mode. They have been scoring goals netting in 2 goals in 6 out of their last 7 games while not scoring a goal only in one game that was against tonight’s rivals Bilbao. Valencia have not had a consistent scorer, which is why they languish in 11th spot in the league. Alcocer, Parejo and Negredo have been the top scorers for them, but somehow rely on a team effort in order to deliver results. They played out an entertaining 2-1 loss to Atletico Madrid on the weekend, and they should gather some heart from that performance heading into tonight’s encounter. Valencia’s last 7 games on the trot have seen 3 goals in the games, and one can expect something similar tonight.
Both teams don’t have to travel much and will feel that they can try to take the advantage into the 2nd leg. Bilbao will be aiming to continue their goalscoring form, while Valencia will aim to try and sneak some away goals to help their cause. Either situation sees an exciting tie with over 2,2.5 goals as my pick of the game.