Roma hope to hold off Ajax in hunt for semifinal spot
Roma are hoping to reach the semifinals of a European competition for the second time in four seasons as they host continental heavyweights Ajax, while Arsenal hope to avoid humiliation at the hands of Slavia Prague and Manchester United look set for the last four.
Here’s a look-ahead to the second legs of the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday.
Roma (ITA) vs. Ajax (NED) (first leg 2-1)
Ajax may be four-time European champions and one of the most exciting sides of recent seasons but it is Roma who have the advantage going into the second leg of their tie at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Italy’s last remaining representative in Europe came away from the Johan Cruyff Arena with a thrilling come-from-behind 2-1 win after being under the cosh for much of the match and are close to a likely last-four clash with Man United after reaching the semis of the Champions League in 2018.
Roma have had a poor domestic season and sit seventh in Serie A — seven points off the Champion League places — after coming up short in almost all of their fixtures against their rivals for the European spots, so Thursday’s second leg could define their season.
Ajax are almost guaranteed to retain their Eredivisie title and warmed up for their trip to the Italian capital with a 1-0 win over RKC Waalwijk thanks to a goal from club-record signing Sebastien Haller, who cannot play against Roma after being accidentally left off his club’s European squad list.
Slavia Prague (CZE) vs. Arsenal (ENG) (first leg 1-1)
Slavia Prague lived up to their dangerous reputation last week when Tomas Holes headed home a stoppage time leveler to turn their tie with Arsenal in their favor.
Mikel Arteta’s Gunners missed some good chances in the first leg but now have their work cut out for them if they want to win a trophy and qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Slavia are on a run of 23 games without defeat and have already knocked out Leicester City and Rangers in their run to the quarterfinals.
Manchester United (ENG) vs. Granada (ESP) (first leg 2-0)
United are huge favorites to reach the semifinals following their simple win over Granada in Spain last week, which should put an end to the surprise package’s first ever season of European football.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are safely tucked in the Champions League places behind Premier League leaders Manchester City and looked in rude health in sweeping past Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at the weekend.
Villarreal (ESP) vs. Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) (first leg 1-0)
Gerard Moreno is having the season of his life as Villarreal gun for their first ever major trophy, a Europa League triumph that would continue three-time winner Unai Emery’s strong record in the competition.
Spain forward Moreno is set to record a career-best tally after scoring 24 times in all competitions this season, including the only goal in Zagreb last week which gave the La Liga outfit an away goal and a great chance of reaching the last four.