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Fierce battles await Arsenal, Athletic & Leipzig

UEFA Europa League Last 16: Fierce battles await Arsenal, Athletic Club & RB Leipzig

March 7, 2018 By Emmanuel K. Budu-Annor
The knockout phase of the Europa League will be back in full swing on Thursday with some key games to look forward to.

Of the eight games set to be played, one that strikes peculiar interest is the matchup between AC Milan and Arsenal at the San Siro. Both clubs are contrasting statuses at the moment with Gattuso’s men enjoying a bit of a renaissance in recent weeks whereas Arsene Wenger’s side has been consistently poor. 

The Frenchman seems to have run out of ideas despite reinforcing his squad with marquee signings in the winter transfer window. The respective arrivals of Henrik Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were supposed to steer the London club in the right direction.

However, the hope of a change in fortune for the Gunners might take a while to materialize considering the recent form of the club. Wenger’s men travel to San Siro on the back of four successive defeats. 

At the moment, the English club's only chance of securing Champions League qualification for next season will be by winning the Europa League considering their poor standing on the domestic league log. Perhaps, that will put the hearts of the Gunners’ fans at ease considering their advocacy to get the French manager sack has gained huge momentum in the past weeks.

Host AC Milan, on the other hand, approaches this encounter in great confidence and form. Thanks to Gennaro Gattuso possibly cracking the code, the Rossoneri is currently on a 12-game unbeaten run. 

Assessing the fact that most of the Milan club’s recent recruitments are now playing to the demands of their boisterous manager, the out of sorts Arsenal side will need to bring its A-game to town if they fancy a favorable result. 

RB Leipzig vs Zenith

The German side poses to be a real dark horse at this stage of the Europa League campaign after eliminating Serie A table-toppers Napoli in the Round of 32 stage. A 3-1 win at Naples was followed by a 2-0 defeat to the Partenopei but the away-goal rule saw them progressing. 

Zenith, on the other hand, upturned a 1-0 deficit against Celtic to qualify for the current stage via a 3-1 aggregate scoreline. The Russian club has lost just one of its last nine UEFA outings and, as such, may have a lot up its sleeves in its first-ever encounter with RB Leipzig.

Olympique Marseille vs Athletic Club

Having been eliminated from the Europa League by the same Spanish club in the Round of 32 stage in 2015, Marseille will be targeting a win this time around. At the moment, they are unbeaten at the Stade Vélodrome in six games since the start of this campaign with five wins and a draw to show for.

With Athletic Club also being unbeaten in six away games, it will be interesting how things turn out on Thursday. One thing that is certain is that the visitors will undoubtedly count on Aritz Aduriz scoring prowess yet again. The Spaniard tops this season’s UEFA Europa League goalscorers’ chart with seven goals.

Here is the scheduling information for the other five UEFA Europa League games:

Borussia Dortmund vs Salzburg

Atlético Madrid vs Lokomotiv Moskva

Lazio vs Dynamo Kyiv

CSKA Moskva vs Olympique Lyonnais

Sporting CP vs Viktoria Plzeň

 

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