The UEFA Europa League can be described as the Champions League’s little brother. Unfortunately, that means there are often big favorites because of the smaller league teams that make it far in the competition. As this tournament progresses, it gets more and more exciting.
Here is a look at how each matchup went and a preview of the Semi-Finals.
To see what happened in the Round of 16, click here.
Europa League Quarter-Finals
Granada v Manchester United
Leg 1 – Granada 0 – Manchester United 2
Leg 2 – Granada 0 – Manchester United 2
Winner: Manchester United (0-4)
Manchester United were the heavy favorite against first-time Europa League participants Granada. After returning to the top flight in 2019, they finished seventh in La Liga and qualified for the Europa League. Getting to the Quarter-Finals was already an overachievement, so it seemed they may be out of luck against an in form United side.
The England giants handled business easily in both legs. In both matches Man U had a healthy amount of possession, scoring one goal early and a second right at the end of the game.
Ajax v Roma
Leg 1 – Ajax 1 – Roma 2
Leg 2 – Ajax 1 – Roma 1
Winner: Roma (2-3)
This was the most well matched of the four Quarter-Final draws. Roma have had their troubles this season, but they are still a formidable opponent. As usual, Ajax are atop the Eredivisie, 11 points ahead of second place PSV.
Roma v Ajax had the tightest games and was most intense of all of the matchups. After taking a 1-0 league at home, Ajax lost control and gave up goals to Lorenzo Pellegrini and Ibanez. Consequently, a 1-1 draw in Rome was enough to send the Italian side through to the Semi-Finals.
Arsenal v Slavia Prague
Leg 1 – Arsenal 1 v Slavia Prague 1
Leg 2 – Arsenal 4 v Slavia Prague 0
Winner: Arsenal (5-1)
The first leg was played in London and was a stalemate for much of the game. It wasn’t until the 86th minute that Arsenal were able to break the deadlock. But it wasn’t to last as Slavia got an equalizer in the third minute of stoppage time.
The situation was looking similar to that a couple weeks ago when Slavia eliminated Leicester City in the Round of 32. They went into the second leg tied on aggregate, and, surprisingly, they downed Leicester 2-0.
Arsenal traveled to Prague for the second leg with work to do. They could look to their Premier League competitors Leicester as an example to not underestimate Slavia. Because of this, they came well prepared and controlled the game from the first whistle, scoring three first half goals. After that they handled the rest of the game with ease.
Dinamo Zagreb v Villarreal
Leg 1 – Dinamo Zagreb 0 – Villarreal 1
Leg 2 – Dinamo Zagreb 1 – Villarreal 2
Winner: Villarreal (1-3)
Dinamo Zagreb were the surprise of the tournament. After drawing Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur in the Round of 16, it seemed their Europa League run was over, especially so after losing 2-0 in the first leg. Dinamo knocked out Spurs as Mislav Oršić scored a miraculous hat-trick.
Villarreal put Zagreb in a similar position after beating them in the first match. However, Dinamo’s Cinderella run was not to continue as Villarreal did what Spurs couldn’t and closed out the second leg. Oršić scored a consolation goal in the 74th minute, but it was too little, too late.
Europa League Semi-Finals
Manchester United v Roma
In the Round of 16 Man United defeated AC Milan. Now, they will have to go through another Italian giant to win their first trophy in more than three years. After becoming the first team to win the Premier League and the first English team to win the European Cup, Manchester United haven’t won a trophy since they won the Europa League in 2017.
In the past two years, Man United have made it to the Semi-Finals and lost in two League Cups, the Europa League and the FA Cup. It may seem fate will be against them when they play Roma, but they will have 24 months of failure to give them motivation.
Roma will also have a lot of motivation as they have never won a European Competition and haven’t won a trophy since they lifted the Coppa Italia in 2008. They have been without star midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo through an ACL injury for the season thus far, and it is unclear if he will play against Man United.
Arsenal v Villarreal
Arsenal have been one of the most disappointing teams in England. As a result, they currently sit ninth in the Premier League, with little or no chance of reaching the top four. Their only feasible chance to make it into the Champions League next season is to win the Europa League.
The problem with that is that they are getting their biggest test in the competition so far with Villarreal. Arsenal are also at a disadvantage because star player Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang contracted malaria while in his home nation Gabon.
Villarreal have struggles this season, but have added motivation as Unai Emery will face his former club. Emery managed Arsenal from 2018-2019 and led to their best run of play since 2007, winning 11 games in a row. Nearly a year after he was sacked by Arsenal, he signed a three-year deal with Villarreal. He has since broken the club record of 18 games unbeaten in December 2020.
Final Prediction: Manchester United v Arsenal
Arsenal and Man United are the heavy favorites in both of their matchups and if all goes according to plan, we will be seeing an all English final.
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