The bridesmaid and never the bride, the Europa League is starting to hot up now, however, with Manchester United the last man standing in their representation of the English clubs. Winning the Europa League is probably the Red Devils' best chance of getting back into the Champions League next season, but we're down to the last eight now, and unlike when the competition got underway back in the summer, now, everyone left in it wants the crown!
Still battling to win the Eredivisie title, it’s fair to say Ajax have more to play for domestically than mid-table Bundesliga outfit Schalke, who have had a pretty disappointing campaign over in Germany, if truth be told. The Germans did, however, earn a big win against Wolfsburg at the weekend, which is always nice to boost the confidence of the players. This is the first ever meeting between the pair, but whilst Schalke will be in a decent mood, with an eight-game unbeaten run – of which seven of those games have resulted in victories – Ajax will be in good spirits, too. We’re ever so slightly edging for the visitors to win 1-2 at 8/1.
One thing worth noting is that Manchester United have lost on their last two trips to Anderlecht, albeit these games were way back in 2000 and 1968, put the point still stands! The Belgian outfit are top of their league, whilst United’s best hope of Champions League football next season will be by winning the Europa League after bouncing from fifth to sixth to fifth to sixth and back to fifth this term in the Premier League. With the likes of Nicolae Stancu and youngsters Leander Dendoncker and Youri Tielemans, the hosts won’t be pushovers, which is why we’re tipping a goalscoring 1-1 draw at 11/2.
Another clash where we’ll be witnessing a maiden meeting, both sides sit in mid-table in their domestic divisions, with Genk in eighth over in Belgium, whilst Vigo are bang in the middle of the La Liga pack – tenth. Guiseppe Rossi is out for the season due to a cruciate injury earlier in the week and will be missed, but in ex-Liverpool man Iago Aspas, have someone who can score a goal or two, which could be the difference against the Belgians on the night. We fancy the host to sneak the advantage in the first leg and are opting for a 2-0 home victory at 11/2.
The final game of the foursome is Besiktas’ trip to France to tackle Lyon, who pulled off a bit of a surprise in the last round by knocking out much fancied Roma. Sitting pretty at the top of the Turkish table, Besiktas can afford to take one eye off domestic matters – for one night, anyway – as they look to secure a safe passage into the semi-finals by possibly sneaking an away goal in France on Thursday evening. The visitors have lost just twice all season in the league, and whilst Lyon don’t draw many, they do have a goalscoring threat in the form of Alexandre Lacazette. We’ll go with Lacazette to score first in a 2-1 home victory at 18/1.
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