MATCHDAY: Man U, Roma, Villarreal hold Europa League leads
A look at what’s happening in the Europa League on Thursday:
MANCHESTER UNITED VS. GRANADA (2-0)
United is on course to reach the semifinals for the second straight season and is the standout team remaining in the competition. The late penalty converted by Bruno Fernandes in the first leg leaves United in a very strong position, though the English team will be without three players because of suspension: left back Luke Shaw, captain Harry Maguire and midfielder Scott McTominay. United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might also choose to rest Marcus Rashford, with the forward having been playing through injuries in recent weeks. Rashford sat out training on Wednesday.
SLAVIA PRAGUE VS. ARSENAL (1-1)
Arsenal’s season now hinges on winning the Europa League owing to its low ranking in the Premier League — Mikel Arteta’s team is languishing in ninth place — so this is its biggest game of the campaign. Slavia Prague poses a major challenge, though, having claimed a stoppage-time away goal last week and having already shown its pedigree by eliminating Leicester and newly crowned Scottish champion Rangers in the last two rounds. It is also the runaway leader in the Czech Republic’s top league, where it is 17 points clear and hasn’t lost any of its 26 games. Arteta welcomes back young midfielders Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe but captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (illness) is still a doubt. Slavia is without defender Ondřej Kúdela, who was handed a 10-game ban from UEFA-run competitions on Wednesday for racially abusing Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara during a last-16 match on March 18.
ROMA VS. AJAX (2-1)
Roma is playing for much more than simply reaching the semifinals. The Giallorossi are losing sight of the top four in Serie A and will likely need to win the Europa League to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Winning the trophy might also be the only way that Paulo Fonseca gets to hold on to his job, with Roma’s new American owners reportedly already considering hiring a new coach. The game also represents a chance for redemption for veteran striker Edin Dzeko, who was stripped of Roma’s captaincy this season and has often lost his place in the starting lineup to Borja Mayoral. But Fonseca has indicated that Dzeko will get the nod against Ajax. The Dutch team has former Roma goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg back from injury following a goalkeeping error by third-string Kjell Scherpen in the first leg -- with first-choice André Onana suspended for a year for doping.
VILLARREAL VS. DINAMO ZAGREB (1-0)
Villarreal hosts Dinamo Zagreb defending its first-leg win but reeling from a disappointing home loss to Osasuna in the Spanish league on Sunday. The loss ended Villarreal’s six-game winning streak in all competitions. The Spanish club is trying to make it to the last four in the Europa League for the first time since 2016, when it lost to Liverpool. It also made it to the quarterfinals in 2019, being eliminated by Valencia. Dinamo’s last Europa League appearance was in 2019, when it failed to get past Benfica in the round of 16.
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