MATCHDAY: Jimenez returns to scene of clash of heads
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Thursday:
Wolverhampton striker Raul Jimenez makes his first return to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium since fracturing his skull there in a clash of heads in November 2020. The Mexico international was out of action for nine months while he recovered from the incident, from which doctors said it was a miracle Jimenez survived. The two teams are in the fight for Champions League qualification, with Arsenal in sixth place and Wolverhampton in seventh. Arsenal is four points behind fourth-place Manchester United having played three fewer games, while Wolves are two points further back and has two games in hand over United. Arsenal beat Wolves 1-0 away just two weeks ago and there was little between the teams.
Barcelona is rebuilding well under coach Xavi Hernandez and getting some of its old flair back ahead of a trip to Napoli in one of eight second-leg matches in the playoffs to reach the last 16. The match is delicately poised at 1-1 and opposes two in-form strikers with differing styles. Napoli’s imposing Victor Osimhen is a threat in the air and excellent back to goal, while Barcelona’s new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will look to attack Napoli’s defense with his pace and skill. Aubameyang has netted three goals in four games since a move from Arsenal. But Borussia Dortmund will be missing its star striker Erling Haaland when it travels to play Scottish champion Rangers trailing 4-2 from the home leg. Haaland has a staggering 23 goals in 20 games this season but is recovering from a muscle injury. Elsewhere two-time Champions League winner Porto takes a 2-1 lead to Lazio, Real Sociedad hosts Leipzing with the match at 2-2, Sevilla leads 3-1 heading to Dinamo Zagreb, and Atalanta is up 2-1 before meeting Olympiakos in Athens.
EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE
Bodø/Glimt won the Norwegian league for the first time in 2020, retained the title last year, and is backing that up with an impressive run in Europe this season. After finishing second in its Conference League group in a campaign that included a 6-1 win over Jose Mourinho’s Roma, Bodø/Glimt has a good chance of eliminating Scottish giant Celtic in the competition’s playoff round to get into the last 16. The team won 3-1 in the first leg in Scotland last week and outplayed Celtic, even though the Norwegian champions are between domestic seasons. The biggest teams in the playoff round are Marseille, Leicester and PSV Eindhoven and they all take leads into the second legs away from home. Marseille leads Azerbaijani team Qarabag 3-1, PSV is 1-0 ahead against Maccabi Tel-Aviv, and Leicester has a 4-1 advantage over Danish team Randers.
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