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MATCHDAY: Man Utd back in Europa League, faces Sociedad test

A have a look at what’s taking place in the Europa League forward of the first-leg matches in the final 32 on Thursday:

REAL SOCIEDAD-MANCHESTER UNITED

United is back in the Europa League for the third time in 5 seasons, an indication of the instances for a membership as soon as thought to be one of many continental heavyweights. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s workforce is thought to be the competitors favourite heading into the knockout stage however, regardless of being prime of the Premier League simply final month, is coming into the match in opposition to Sociedad out of shape after profitable simply two of its final seven league video games. Like United, Sociedad – energized by the arrival of offseason signing David Silva from United’s rival, Man City – had a spell in first place in its home league this season however is now outdoors the highest 4 in La Liga. Sociedad winger Adnan Januzaj performs in opposition to the workforce who offered him in 2017 after being a part of the United academy and good buddies with Paul Pogba. The first leg takes place in Turin, Italy, due to coronavirus-related journey restrictions on arrivals to Spain from Britain in the course of the pandemic.

BENFICA-ARSENAL

Another match relocated – this time to Rome – due to journey restrictions, it options golf equipment who’ve reached 5 UEFA Cup/Europa League finals with out profitable one, though the Gunners did win the Inter Cities Fairs Cup forerunner in 1970. Benfica dropped into the Europa League after dropping in Champions League qualifying and has but to lose in 26 house matches in the competitors, a report. Midfielder Pizzi is the highest scorer in this season’s competitors with six targets. Arsenal’s finest probability of qualifying for subsequent season’s Champions League appears to be by profitable the Europa League as a result of Mikel Arteta’s workforce is just tenth in the Premier League. Arsenal defender David Luiz is about to face his former membership.

RED STAR BELGRADE-AC MILAN

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in the knockout levels of a European competitors for the primary time since Manchester United’s run to the Europa League title in 2017 as Milan heads to Serbia. The recreation pits collectively two former European champions as 1991 European Cup winner Red Star hosts the seven-time continental champion from Italy. Milan could relaxation gamers forward of Sunday’s recreation in opposition to rival Inter Milan. Red Star’s coach is former Inter participant Dejan Stankovic. His workforce has loads of expertise of preventing its means by way of Champions League and Europa League qualifiers however has solely reached the knockout rounds on one different event in the final decade. Red Star’s passionate followers often make their stadium an intimidating place to go to with chants, flares and elaborate organized shows of assist. This time the stadium will likely be empty due to the pandemic.

LILLE-AJAX

Sébastien Haller was key to Ajax’s hopes of a European trophy — at the least till the Dutch membership forgot to register him for the Europa League. The field subsequent to the title of the Ivorian striker, Ajax’s report signing, wasn’t ticked when the membership despatched its squad listing to UEFA. Worse adopted when goalkeeper André Onana was banned for a 12 months over a failed drug test. Ajax should hope Lille is extra targeted on its bid to dethrone Paris Saint-Germain in the French league, the place the hosts lead PSG by a single level. Ajax will bid to change into the primary workforce to attain in opposition to Lille in greater than a month. Lille has not conceded any targets in its final six league and cup video games.

WOLFSBERG-TOTTENHAM

Wolfsberg is about to play the most important house recreation in its 90-year historical past however has to do it in Hungary, not its native Austria, due to journey restrictions affecting Tottenham. Wolfsberg has been on the rise in latest years, first reaching the Austrian prime division in 2012 and the Europa League group stage in 2019. This will be its first time in the knockout stages of a European competition. Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho suggested he might rest key players after a busy period of games domestically, most recently a 3-0 loss in the Premier League to Manchester City which came less than three days after an extra-time loss to Everton in the FA Cup. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was at fault for perhaps two of the goals against City but Mourinho said the France international had “all my trust and confidence.”

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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