Today’s Europa League Knockout Round Play-Offs Fixtures & Previews

Familiar foes Feyenoord and Roma meet again

Familiar foes Feyenoord and Roma meet again on Thursday evening, as De Kuip hosts the first leg of their Europa League knockout-round playoff.

While the Dutch champions dropped down from the Champions League, their Italian counterparts finished second in Group G; so with a last-16 place at stake, the clubs now clash for a third successive season.

Beaten quarter-finalists last term, Feyenoord have twice lifted the Europa League’s predecessor, the UEFA Cup, and were also crowned continental champions back in 1970, so their pedigree is certainly not in doubt.

After sacking Mourinho last month, Roma had won each of their first three matches under new boss Daniele De Rossi – who incidentally played twice for the Giallorossi against Feyenoord in 2015 – but a recent home defeat to Scudetto favourites Inter Milan left them sixth in the Serie A standings.

Roma definitely tend to fare less well on their travels, as they have also lost more than half of their away matches in Serie A thus far, so Feyenoord may fancy their chances of earning a first-leg advantage.

Meanwhile, Roma’s main marksman Romelu Lukaku has only failed to score in one of his last 17 Europa League appearances, netting 20 times across that period.

Feyenoord are always a force to be reckoned with at De Kuip, while Roma often fall short on the road. As a result, the home side should make the most of their home advantage and take a slim lead with them to Rome next week.



AC Milan host Rennes in Europa League last 16

Vying for a place in the Europa League‘s last 16, AC Milan meet Rennes in the knockout-round playoffs, with Thursday’s first leg being held at San Siro.

The clubs clash for the very first time in a competitive fixture, as Champions League drop-outs host a team that cruised through Group F in the autumn.

AC Milan players

Given the nature of their Champions League opponents, it was not a major upset when Milan failed to progress from this season’s ‘Group of Death’, though they had hoped to at least replicate last year’s run to the final four.

Finishing third, behind Dortmund and PSG, saw the Italian giants slip down into the Europa League, in which they must overcome a tough two-legged tie to reach the last 16.

Aside from the 2008 Intertoto Cup, Rennes have not claimed continental silverware at all, but they will travel to Italy’s second city in their best form of the season.

Les Rouge et Noirs are set to meet another red-and-black side having won seven games on the spin since the New Year.

Not only have Rennes scored in all but one of their last 16 Europa League matches, but they also tend to travel well – a record of eight wins from 12 European away games speaks for itself.

Milan may have half an eye on Sunday’s Serie A clash with neighbours Monza, so the tie could remain finely poised ahead of next week’s return leg.



Shakhtar Donetsk battle Marseille at home

Returning to competitive action following a two-month hiatus, Shakhtar Donetsk battle Marseille in the first leg of their Europa League knockout round playoff at Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion on Thursday night.

The Ukrainian champions settled for third place in their Champions League group to drop down to the second tier, while Gennaro Gattuso‘s men were runners-up in Europa League Group B.

Marseille players

Due to the Ukrainian Premier League’s lengthy winter break, Shakhtar Donetsk have not taken to the field with the aim of putting priceless points on the board since December 13, where their closing Champions League Group H clash with Porto ended with an extraordinary eight goals flying into the back of the net.

History does not favour the French contingent, though, as they were beaten 4-1 on aggregate by Shakhtar in the quarter-finals of the 2008-09 UEFA Cup – which the Miners went on to win – and it has been 20 years since Marseille last overcame a Ukrainian opponent in European competition.

Having not taken to the pitch for a competitive match in over eight weeks, rustiness is sure to come into play for Shakhtar Donetsk, who were not hugely impressive during their period of winter friendlies.

Marseille have left a lot to be desired in recent weeks too, but the importance of Mbemba’s imminent return cannot be overstated, and the French outfit should be good enough for a hard-earned draw in Germany.


Galatasaray have a slight advantage over Sparta Prague

On account of their failure to prolong their Champions League adventure, Galatasaray begin their bid for Europa League stardom on Thursday, hosting Sparta Prague in the first leg of their knockout round playoff.

Galatasaray players

While Okan Buruk‘s men placed third in their Champions League section, their Czech visitors were runners-up in Europa League Group C, thus missing out on a direct route into the last 16.

One-time winners of the UEFA Cup back in the 1999-2000 edition, where they got the better of Arsenal in the final, each of Galatasaray’s last five attempts to progress from the Champions League group stage have now ended in failure, and they have not made it past the last 16 of the Europa League since its rebranding.

Galatasaray’s comfortable beating of Basaksehir also represented a ninth successive home victory for the Turkish Super Lig leaders, leaving the odds firmly stacked against Sparta Prague, who edged into the knockout rounds by the skin of their teeth.

Galatasaray’s diverse squad is in relatively good nick at this moment in time, but on-loan Chelsea attacker Hakim Ziyech will not be involved in the knockout round playoffs due to an ankle injury, which he sustained at the Africa Cup of Nations while turning out for Morocco.

Confidence is flowing through the veins of both sets of players right now, but with Sparta Prague only just returning to competitive action last weekend after a period of friendlies, the visitors may be at a slight disadvantage.




Galatasaray17:45Sparta Prague

Shakhtar Donetsk17:45Marseille

Young Boys17:45Sporting Lisbon


Lens20:00SC Freiburg

AC Milan20:00Rennes

Sporting Braga20:00Qarabag


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