UEFA Europa League – Round of 16 Preview and Predictions

As the Europa League Round of 16 second leg approaches, anticipation mounts for another round of captivating football clashes. With the initial battles leaving us on the edge of our seats, the stage is set for an enthralling continuation of Europe’s premier secondary club competition. Each team enters this crucial juncture with aspirations of advancement, knowing that every pass, tackle, and goal could shape their destiny in the tournament. As we prepare for the upcoming fixtures, let’s delve into the narratives, key matchups, and potential turning points that promise to make this round an unforgettable chapter in the Europa League saga.

Thursday 14 March

2/1 Slavia Praha | Draw 26/10 | AC Milan 11/10 (19:45)

AC Milan travel to the Czech capital for the second leg of their Europa League last 16 clash with Slavia Prague on Thursday evening. The Rossoneri lead 4-2 from an exhilarating first leg, which leaves the tie heavily in their favor, but not yet over by any means. Slavia Praha are chasing down a fourth European quarterfinal in six seasons and have recorded historical results in the past at home to Italian opposition, as they have won four and drawn two of their eight meetings with Serie A opponents on home turf. With the two-goal advantage, I see AC Milan comfortably navigating their way into the quarterfinals even if Slavia gets on the scoresheet. Back the away win here.

7/4 Rangers | Draw 26/10 | Benfica 27/20 (19:45)

The Ibrox Stadium will be in full voice when Rangers take on Benfica in their round of 16 second-leg Europa League clash. All three meetings between Rangers and Benfica in Europe have ended level, while both teams have scored at least twice in all three fixtures (3-3 and 2-2 in the 2020-21 UEFA Europa League, and 2-2 in the first leg this season. Both teams have failed to progress from this stage in the past but with the score deadlocked at 2-2, it has the making of being one for the history books. It will come down to individual brilliance in this exciting encounter and I believe Joao Neves of Benfica is the player to keep an eye on and the player to deliver on the day for the Portuguese outfit. Benfica to win and BTTS.

12/10 Villarreal | Draw 28/10 | Marseille 18/10 (19:45)

Villarreal have a mountain to climb after they lost the first leg away to Marseille 4-0, the first time they shipped four goals in a major European match since losing 4-0 to Roma in February 2017. No side in UEFA Europa League history has overturned a 4+ goal first-leg deficit in a two-legged knockout match. To make matters worse for the Yellow Submarine, Marseille have scored 23 goals in nine Europa League matches this season, their most ever in a single European season. Pierre Emrick-Aubameyang of Marseille is the all-time leading goal scorer in Europa League history (2009-10 onwards), scoring 33 goals in 57 appearances. Nine of those have come this season. Marseille to win.

7/10 West Ham | Draw 11/4 | Freiburg 7/2 (19:45)

West Ham have a big night ahead of them after they fell to defeat at Freiburg 1-0 in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie. David Moyes has been under the spotlight in recent weeks but has the credentials and the team to turn things around. The Hammers, including qualifiers, have won their last 10 home games in European competitions scoring 25 goals and conceding six. With that being said, their last Europa League home defeat did come against German opposition in 2022. Following their 1-0 first-leg victory, Freiburg is looking to make history and reach the last eight of a major European competition for the first time. Freiburg will need Michael Gregoritsch to be firing on all cylinders as they look to put West Ham to the sword. Back the Hammers win.

9/10 Atalanta | Draw 26/10 | Sporting Lisbon 51/20 (22:00)

Atalanta and Sporting Lisbon go head-to-head in a Europa League last-16 second-leg clash. The tie is still in the balance after last week’s 1-1 stalemate, despite the Italian side hitting the woodwork multiple times against Ruben Amorim’s men. Gianluca Scamacca is expected to lead the line for Atalanta as the Italy international seeks to score in three back-to-back appearances. Sporting have found it difficult against Italian opposition in the past but are in the best position possible to end this. Despite their wretched run against Italian opposition, Sporting head into this fixture in fine form, unbeaten in all competitions. Viktor Gyokeres is the away side’s most potent weapon to wreak havoc on La Dea. Back the away win here.

15/20 Brighton | Draw 3/1 | Roma 29/10 (22:00)

This will be only the second-ever European tie between Roma and Brighton after the Italian club won the first leg 4-0. Since the appointment of Danielle De Rossi, Roma has found a love for the game again and looks like the Roma of old. In the first leg, Brighton became the first English club to lose by four goals in the knockout stage of the competition. It will take some performance from Roberto De Zerbi’s men to turn this tie around. Roma to win.

1/6 Bayer Leverkusen | Draw 6/1 | Qarabag 12/1 (22:00)

Bayer Leverkusen and Qarabag drew their first leg 2-2 after a late equalizer by Patrick Schick. Qarabag put on a show in front of their home fans in the first leg and if they can repeat or better that performance then Leverkusen has a game on their hands. Xabi Alonso has done an excellent job with Leverkusen this season and with the form they find themselves in, especially in Germany, I can’t see anything else but a Leverkusen victory. Florian Wirtz is the player to look out for, the German has 3 goals – and 4 assists in only five games in the competition this term. Leverkusen to win.

3/10 Liverpool | Draw 48/10 | Sparta Praha 13/2 (22:00)

Liverpool has won each of their last eight home games in the UEFA Europa League, including all three so far this season. With the first leg ending 5-1 in favor of Liverpool, this tie is over. Jurgen Klopp will opt for fresh legs and will field his ‘youngsters’ who have been making headlines for their exceptional display last time out. In the first leg, Harvey Elliot became the first English player to assist three goals in a single Europa League match – keep an eye on him. Liverpool win with over 2.5 goals.

Written by Marc Strydom