Unusual times and an unusual format, but the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals are almost upon us and BetVictor Brand Ambassador Michael Owen gave us his thoughts on how he thinks each of the teams will fare.
Inter Milan to win
Inter Milan v Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Goals from Romelu Lukaku and Christian Eriksen were enough for Inter to see off Getafe in this one-off last 16 tie. Inter finished 2nd behind Juventus in Serie A this season and will be buoyed by the permanent signing of Alexis Sanchez. All three ex-Premier League players in Lukaku, Eriksen and Sanchez should be available for the quarter-final tie against Bayer Leverkusen.
Leverkusen beat Rangers 1-0 at the BayArena after a decisive 3-1 first-leg victory at Ibrox. They finished fifth in the Bundesliga and hadn’t played since losing to Bayern Munich in the German Cup Final on July 4th. However, any hopes of an upset were ended when Diaby scored early in the second half to extend the German’s aggregate lead.
This will be the first time Leverkusen have reached the last eight since 2007-08 but I just fancy that Antonio Conte’s team will have too much for Leverkusen on the night and I’m going for a comfortable 2-0 win to the Italians.
Manchester United to win and over 2.5 goals
Manchester United v FC Copenhagen
A rather lack-lustre performance from Manchester United ended with a 2-1 victory after coming from a goal down on Thursday evening. In fairness, the tie was over after the first leg (5-0) so one can forgive the Red Devils for not being at their very best.
They now head to Germany as favourites to win the competition and round off what would be a very successful first full season in charge for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
United have used 38 players in the UEFA Europa League this season – the most players a team has used in a single campaign in UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League history.
Copenhagen demolished the newly crowned Turkish Champions, İstanbul Başakşehir 3-0 after losing the first leg 1-0 and deservedly earned themselves a place in the Europa League quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
I am pretty sure that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will bring back some of his star players for this tie. It’s a favourable draw this one, I think, for United and I’m going for a 2-1 win for the Red Devils.
Shakhtar Donetsk to win
Shakhtar Donetsk v Basel
Shakhtar Donetsk moved smoothly into the quarter-finals with a 5-1 aggregate scoreline against Wolfsburg. However, the tie was pretty much in the balance until very late on, when 3 goals in four minutes for the Ukrainian side ensured their safe passage into the last 8 of the competition
Basel progressed thanks to a 1-0 home win against Eintracht Frankfurt after a comprehensive 3-0 win at the Deutsche Bank Park stadium in the first leg. Basel had only 39% possession in this second leg but managed to keep another clean sheet and an 88th-minute winner from Fabian Frei put the icing on the cake for the Swiss team.
The scores suggest that both teams cruised into the quarter-finals but of course, one team has to go out and I think Donetsk might just have too much quality for the Swiss team. I’m going for 2-0 victory for the Ukrainian champions.
Sevilla to win to nil
Wolves v Sevilla
After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, Wolves survived a nervy night at Molineux, eventually beating Olympiacos 1-0 thanks to a penalty from the ever-reliable Raul Jimenez.
The result secured their place in their first European quarter-final since 1972. Remarkably this was Wolves’ 16th game in the competition already this season; a run which started way back on July 25th last year!
Sevilla beat Roma 2-0 in a one-off match, also on Thursday.
Sevilla have won the Europa League five times which is more than any other side and they have gone on to lift the trophy on each of the past three occasions that they have reached the quarter-final stage.
They are unbeaten in 18 games in all competitions and I take the in-form Spanish side to sneak through 1-0.