The UEFA Europa League round of 16 has come to a close and has seen many top-tier European soccer clubs progress and get knocked out of the prestigious tournament. We’ve seen the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt, AS Roma, and Wolfsburg eliminated in the round of 16, but now it’s time for the continuation of the tournament with an altered form. Instead of having the knockout rounds played between two fixtures (one at a home venue and one at an away venue) they will instead be determined by one match at a neutral stadium. This is due to the Coronavirus hiatus that saw these tournaments and all other sporting events stop in their tracks. Now that restrictions are being lifted in Europe, both the Europa League and Champions League tournaments aim to finish the round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship games within the month of August to prepare for the next soccer season. Below are my predictions for every quarter final bout in the Europa League, which are set to take place between August 10th and 11th.
Manchester United vs F.C. Copenhagen
Manchester United have been on cruise control ever since the Coronavirus hiatus was lifted. Out of the 12 games they’ve played, Chelsea were the only team to hand them defeat in the 1-3 loss in the semifinals of the FA Cup. United have been more than impressive under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and the acquisition of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon have given United a lift they’ve been craving for since the departure of legendary manager Sir Alex Fergusen. Although the main reason why teams fight for the Europa League title is for automatic qualification into next season’s Champions League tournament, Manchester United never shy away from an opportunity to hoist more silverware. United finished 3rd in the Premier League which already gives them a spot in the upcoming Champions League, however the talent on display from the Red Devil’s will almost certainly be too much for the likes of Copenhagen to deal with. My score prediction is 4-0 to Manchester United.
Inter Milan vs Bayer Leverkusen
Antonio Conte is responsible for making Inter Milan both a defensive menace and an offensive juggernaut. The Italians have seen defeat just one time since the restart and have bludgeoned the likes of Brescia and SPAL on their way to a second place finish in the Serie A (just one point off of the champions Juventus). Leverkusen did beat Rangers 1-0 on August 6th but haven’t played a Bundesliga fixture since their 4-2 defeat to Bayern Munich back on July 4th. I personally don’t have confidence in a team that has a star player in Kai Havertz whose heart is in a different place. Fabrizio Romano has reported that Havertz and Chelsea have agreed to personal terms and are awaiting both clubs to discuss a transfer fee. Regardless, Inter are the better team on paper and I don’t expect Leverkusen to bag a goal. My score prediction is 2-0 to Inter Milan.
Wolverhampton vs Sevilla
Sevilla, who are five time champions of this tournament, were able to quiet a lot of people (including me) when they took care of business against AS Roma with a 2-0 victory. With that being said, Wolves are on a hunt for their first-ever European title and automatic qualification to next season’s Champions League tournament. This is arguably my most anticipated fixture to watch and I do expect fireworks because of what this game will mean for both sides. Sevilla are fighting to earn a sixth Europa League while Wolves (unlike Sevilla) didn’t finish in a European position in the Premier League and are putting their faith in this tournament. My score prediction is 3-2 to Wolverhampton.
Shakhtar Donetsk vs FC Basel
What should be known about this fixture in particular is that anything is possible. This may be the most evenly matched fixture in the quarterfinals of the Europa League. Both teams expectations were not to reach the semifinals of this tournament, but now that there is a real chance for either side to make it deep in the tournament, the expectations for a cracking match are through the roof. Open play, counter attacks, defensive pressure, and set pieces will be crucial points that both teams have to capitalize on. My score prediction is 2-1 to Basel.
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