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Presentation of the 1/8th final first leg

The round of 16 first leg of the UEFA Europa League begins this Wednesday at 6:45 p.m. with the poster between Olympique Lyonnais and FC Porto. AS Monaco, the other French representative will face Braga on Thursday. As a reminder, the away goals rule has been abolished.

Porto – Olympique Lyonnais

Dragons fans will recall José Mourinho’s Porto beating Lyon in the quarter-finals of the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League. The French club are yet to beat Porto in four games and have lost both away games without scoring, but manager Peter Bosz has his own reasons for confidence, saying with a smile: “OL never beat Porto in Europe, but I did with Leverkusen”. Bosz’s side beat the Portuguese 5-2 on aggregate in the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

Porto have won their last six matches against French clubs, and have not lost in 11 home games against Ligue 1 sides since a 2-0 loss to Nantes in September 1971.

Real Betis v Eintracht Frankfurt

The prospect of a final in their city – if not their stadium – will be a motivating factor for Real Betis, but coach Manuel Pellegrini is right to be wary of an Eintracht side who finished top group without losing a match in the autumn, and who reached the semi-finals of this competition in 2018/19, losing on penalties to eventual winners Chelsea. “They seem to be tough opponents”said the Chilean, while his counterpart Oliver Glasner exuded positivity: “For us now, it’s all together”.

Betis are unbeaten in three European home games against German clubs, the most recent being a 1-1 draw against Leverkusen in the group stage this season.

Sevilla v West Ham

English tabloid The Sun described West Ham’s draw against the six-time winners and hosts of the final as “a nightmare”but David Moyes’ side might not be so intimidated by history as they continue to upend the established order at the top of the Premier League. “I wanted a big game and I want the big teams and us to challenge them and really go for it”says the former Manchester United and Everton manager, who has his sights set on a return to the final. “It would be good to go there twice, it would be good to get used to the stadium!”.

The last English side to travel to Sevilla were West Ham’s London rivals Chelsea, who won 4-0 in the 2019/20 Champions League group stage with Olivier Giroud scoring all four goals.

Rangers vs Crvena zvezda

Rangers have won two of the previous three encounters, but if the Light Blues have had a slight upper hand in terms of individual fixtures, manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst – who just knocked out Borussia Dortmund – knows not to be overconfident: “They finished top of their group so we know they will be a tough team”. Dejan Stanković believes his Red Star side will relish the chance to shine. “Europe is always magical for Crvena zvezda. No one can stop us from dreaming and looking ahead.”

Rangers are unbeaten at home against Crvena zvezda but have not won in three games in Belgrade.

Braga v Monaco

Monaco took the lead in a tough Group B, finishing unbeaten ahead of Real Sociedad and PSV Eindhoven as well as Sturm Graz, but while Braga look less intimidating on paper, coach Philippe Clement isn’t ruling out the finalists. the 2011 UEFA Europa League. “We are entering the knockout phase, so all the teams still involved have qualities”, said the Belgian. “There is not much difference in level”. Braga performed very well, with their young side buoyed by goals from Ricardo Horta and creativity from Iuri Medeiros.

Braga have lost their previous two home and away matches against French sides, against Paris Saint-Germain in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup Round of 16 and against Marseille in the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

Atalanta v Leverkusen

Eliminated by Köln in the 1990/91 UEFA Cup and by Dortmund in the 2017/18 Europa League, Atalanta have not always won against German sides, but they have since taken a step forward before meeting Leverkusen, runners-up in the 2002 Champions League. After the draw, Werkself boss Gerardo Soane raved about Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, “champions league worthy” and his “sexy style of play”. Italian club president Antonio Percassi added: “Atalanta will give everything on the pitch as always: it’s in our DNA.”

FC Barcelona vs Galatasaray

If Barcelona’s season has been hectic, Galatasaray’s has been even more so. The Istanbul giants are mired in mid-table (12th in the Turkish League) and have no chance of reaching Europe next season unless they win the UEFA Europa League. Xavi Hernández seems to have reached a milestone since his arrival as FC Barcelona coach, while the Turkish club’s new coach Domenèc Torrent (former assistant to Pep Guardiola at Camp Nou) has obtained encouraging results with Cimbom, thanks in particular to to goalkeeper Iñaki Peña, on loan from FC Barcelona.


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