A lot of big clubs won’t take the Europa League seriously in the early rounds, but we’ve reached the point where it represents a chance for major silverware and a route back into the Champions League.
Rangers have always taken it seriously and it’s massive for Scottish football if they go deep into the tournament, Spurs and Arsenal know it’s the main chance for Champions League football next year and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to start winning trophies at Man United.
There are no easy draws at this stage but some teams represent more of a challenge than others, so here’s a look at the draw for the remaining British sides.
Olympiacos vs Arsenal
The Gunners went out of the competition last year to the Greek giants, so this looks like a tasty rematch where they should fancy their chances of progressing.
Arsenal also played one of their legs against Benfica at the home of the Greek side so that could make the away leg less of an advantage as usual, so this does look like a decent draw for Mikel Arteta’s men.
There’s also an immediate return for Sokratis to face Arsenal after he returned to Greece in the summer, while there are familiar names in the forward areas too.
Veteran French star Mathieu Valbuena will always cause problems with his trickery while Bruma has pace and an eye for goal on the wing, while perpetual Arsenal target from back in the day Yann M’Vila is well known to Premier League fans.
Dinamo Zagreb vs Spurs
Potentially one of the easier draws on paper for Jose Mourinho’s side, but the Croatians are formidable at the back and they do have plenty of quality and pace in the forward areas.
Spurs have tended to go with a rotated side in the tournament so far but this represents their biggest challenge so far.
They’ve got a great target man in Bruno Petkovic who’s capable of creating something out of nothing, real pace in the wide areas with Mislav Orsic and Lirim Kastrati and there’s creativity in the midfield behind them, so this should be a tough challenge for Spurs’ defence.
Dominik Lovakovic has been highly rated in goals for years and he may have reached a point where he needs to move on to a bigger club, so he’ll be desperate to have a solid showing to keep Spurs out.
It’s also worth noting that it looks like the home and away legs will be reversed for this one due to Arsenal being drawn to play at home on the same day:
Tottenham’s Europa League tie will be reversed, they cannot play at home on the same day as Arsenal, per UEFA rules (not day switch).
The national Cup winners (Arsenal) hold the fixture rights.
Spurs v Dinamo Zagreb
— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) February 26, 2021
Man United vs AC Milan
Probably the biggest tie of the round on paper, Zlatan looks set to return to Old Trafford although his AC Milan side have been on a slide in the past few weeks after a blistering start to the season.
It should be pretty evenly matched and it will also be interesting to see if there were any allowances for this made in Diogo Dalot’s loan deal for the teams to play each other as he’ll have a major point to prove.
There have been murmurs of Hakan Calhanoglu interesting United in the summer so it’s a chance for him to impress, so this should provide a couple of great games.
Slavia Prague vs Rangers
Slavia produced a great performance last night to knock out Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester City side, so their reward is to face off against his old rivals in Steven Gerrard’s Rangers.
Obviously this will be a tough draw for Rangers, but it’s the type of clash where both sides will fully fancy their chances of progressing to the next round.
Rangers have been in formidable form all year and Gerrard has proven he can set his team up to get results and score goals home and away in Europe, so they should fancy their chances of getting through this tie.
The main dangerman has to be Abdallah Sima who’s been on fire and has an incredible scoring record this season, while there’s the vaguest of Scottish connections in pacey wide man Oscar Dorley who ripped St Johnstone apart a few years ago when he was playing with Lithuanian side FC Trakai.
Both sides have goals in them but they can also keep it tight at the back, so this could be incredibly tight or an absolute goalfest.
The full draw:
The Europa League 2020/21 round of 16 is SET! ??
?? Ajax v Young Boys ??
?? Dinamo Kiev v Villarreal ??
?? Roma v Shakhtar ??
?? Olympiacos v Arsenal ???????
?? Dinamo Zagreb v Tottenham ???????
??????? Man Utd v AC Milan ??
?? Slavia Prague v Rangers ???????
?? Granada v Molde ??#UELdraw pic.twitter.com/2ZyJ6jw8G6
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 26, 2021