Barcelona and Frankfurt, Lyon and West Ham, and Atalanta and Leipzig are still tied ahead of the UEFA Europa League quarter-final second leg, while Braga’s lead over Rangers is tenuous.
Barcelona set for Frankfurt clash
Transformed since the arrival of Xavi Hernández, FC Barcelona may only have a tiny chance of depriving Real Madrid of the title of Spanish champion, but a first title in the UEFA Europa League remains within reach. They didn’t have an easy first leg against Frankfurt but the La Liga side will have no mercy at Camp Nou. As Barça’s German goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen said, “For the second leg, we know exactly what to do.”
However, Oliver Glasner’s team is not an easy opponent; they are unbeaten away in Europe this season, scoring at least once in each of those encounters. They managed to hold on to Barcelona despite the last 12 minutes of the first leg being down to ten following Tuta’s dismissal, and needn’t be intimidated heading into Spain. “Everyone has seen that we can compete with them”, said Ansgar Knauff, scorer in the first leg.
Lyon prepares for the Hammers’ battering
The 1-1 draw in London seemed like a good result on paper, but Lyon returned to France with some regrets, having failed to take the lead despite being down ten for the entire second half. “If you play ten, normally you should win”, conceded coach Peter Bosz, but – a far cry from Ligue 1 pace – Lyon will give West Ham their all in the second leg.
The exclusion of left-back Aaron Cresswell deprives the Hammers of a key man for the decisive game, but while they showed admirable spirit in the face of adversity, manager David Moyes was unimpressed with his team when they were at 11. Striker Jarrod Bowen expects a smoother performance in France: “We weren’t at our best, but we created chances. We will go to another level and we will be dangerous”.
Rangers want to close Braga deficit
“It’s a one goal difference” shrugged Giovanni van Bronckhorst after his side’s narrow defeat in Portugal. “[Au match retour, nous sommes] home, with the land behind us. We have to win by a margin of two to go to the semi-finals; we know what the task ahead of us is.” The task looks simple on paper, but with striker Alfredo Morelos out until the end of the season, the Light Blues need to find a decisive advantage.
Carlos Carvalhal’s young Braga side came close to coming to Scotland with a 2-0 lead, Ricardo Horta hitting the post. They don’t scare easily and won’t forget that Rangers are still shaky after their 2-1 home defeat to Celtic earlier this month. The last time Arsenalistas came to Ibrox they led 2-0 to lose 3-2, and they may be inclined to pull the splits this time around. Goalscorer Abel Ruiz said: “1-0 is not a big advantage, but we will go there to win”.
Atalanta and Leipzig expect more mayhem
The first leg between Atalanta and Leipzig was disrupted; both teams hit wood twice, Leipzig were awarded a penalty, and if the game ended 1-1 it could easily have been 3-3, 4-4 or 5-5 . “We had more chances and we were disappointed because we felt we could win”said Gian Piero Gasperini, the coach of Atalanta, disappointed. “It all starts again from 1-1.”
Atalanta managed to cut off Leipzig’s supply lines for much of the game, and will look to take control of the game in the second leg, although their guests may have similar ideas. “We can’t just play on the counter-attack”, said Italian-born coach Domenico Tedesco. Striker Emil Forsberg added: “It’s all up for grabs in Bergamo and we believe we have the quality to get the result we need.”
Tetê, OL’s new Brazilian wonder
Hugo Ekitike, the new nugget of the Stade de Reims
Five things to know about Jonathan David