UEFA Europa League Round of 32 Preview
Paolo Buendia on Feb 18, 2015 09:53 PM
Eight Champions League teams have dropped down to join the other twenty four squads still in contention for the title. The three biggest clubs to watch out for are arguably Liverpool, Roma and Ajax. The Europa League may be on a lower level than the Champions League, but big clubs like Chelsea and Atletico Madrid have taken this competition as seriously as the former. Along with the three mentioned, other early favorites are defending champions Sevilla and Tottenham with Italian clubs Napoli, Internazionale and Fiorentina.
February 20, 2015 early morning matches
BSC Young Boys v Everton FC
Young Boys is on a seven-match winning run at home in European matches and will pose a formidable threat to visiting Everton. The English club was unbeaten away from home in the group stage but drew two matches while winning the other one. I predict a home victory for Young Boys.
Torino FC v Athletic Club
Torino has been playing fantastically at home with an unbeaten record of nine matches. The home side will have the advantage over the visiting Athletic side. The Spanish club finished strong in the Champions League, winning the last two games. This was not enough for Athletic to stay in that competition but those wins out the momentum in the club’s favor. I believe a draw will happen in this match.
VfL Wolfsburg v Sporting Clube de Portugal
Wolfsburg is bolstered by new signing Andre Schurrle, who excelled with Chelsea in the Champions League when he played. The home side has a poor home record of one win in the last four European matches but the visiting squad is even worse while on the road, failing to win in the last thirteen matches. I see Wolfsburg with the slight advantage in this match to secure the win.
FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk v Olympiacos FC
Greek Champion Olympiacos is on a five-match losing streak away from home in European matches. Dnipro was not impressive at home in the group stage either with two wins, two losses and a draw in the team’s last five matches. The advantage goes to the home side and I predict a narrow victory for Dnipro.
Trabzonspor AS v SSC Napoli
Trabzonspor has not won a match in this stage in the four times that the club has made it this far. However, three wins in four group stage home matches shows the club as formidable at home. Napoli has been poor on the road this season, winning only one of four matches in Europe. Home side Trabzonspor will be favored to win this match.
AS Roma v Feyenoord
Both teams are on a poor run of form entering into this match. Roma is on a five-match winless run in Europe which includes two home defeats. Feyenoord on the other hand, won only one of the last ten away matches in Europe. I believe a draw will be fair for both sides in this match.
PSV Eindhoven v FC Zenit
Zenit has an excellent record of six-for-six when the team reaches this stage of the competition. That is a 100% record to qualify for the Round of Sixteen. PSV has been inconsistent this season for both away and home matches. The team will need to steady the ship for two matches to progress to the next round. I see another draw in this match.
Aalborg BK v Club Brugge KB
Both Aab and Brugge are in excellent form entering into this match. Home side Aab won three of four matches at home in the group stage while not conceding any goals. Brugge is unbeaten in five away matches this season, winning four and drawing one game. I predict a highly competitive match with Brugge securing the away win.
RSC Anderlecht v FC Dinamo Moskva
Dinamo qualified to this stage with a 100% record and will be full of confidence as the team travels to Belgium. Anderlecht on the other hand, won only one of the last seven matches at home in Europe, a record that will be tested again by Dinamo. I believe the visitors will win this match.
Liverpool FC v Besiktas JK
Liverpool is on a five-match winless run in European matches but have a good record against Turkish opponents at home. Former Chelsea striker Demba Ba will be the danger man that the home side will look out for, having played in three English Premier League teams before the move to Turkey. I see another draw in this match but Liverpool can sneak in a win.
Tottenham Hotspur FC v ACF Fiorentina
This is one of the best matchups for this stage between two quality clubs. Tottenham lost only one match in the last five at home, winning the other four. Fiorentina on the other hand is unbeaten in nine European away matches, winning seven and drawing two. Harry Kane has been unbelievable for Tottenham this season and will be the target man for the English club’s attack. I predict a home win for the Spurs.
Celtic FC v FC Internazionale Milano
It will be difficult to beat Celtic at home in the stadium where even Barcelona failed to win in recent years. The home side has won ten of the last fifteen matches at home with five losses. Inter also has a good away record of two wins and two draw in the last four matches. The Italian squad has found it hard to secure a win here in the past and I believe this match will also end up with a Celtic win.
EA Guingamp v FC Dynamo Kyiv
Guingamp is in this stage of the competition for the first time in the last four attempts. The French squad is good at home in Europe with seven wins and three losses. Kyiv is on a three-match winning streak in this competition and is the team with the momentum entering this match. I see Kyiv using the experience it has in this tournament to win this match.
Villareal CF v FC Salzburg
Another matchup between two in-form clubs, Villareal will put its four match unbeaten run on the line when the club faces Salzburg, who is unbeaten in nine away matches. The Spanish club has been playing well in La Liga this season and will be the slight favorite for this match. I predict a tough victory for the home side.
AFC Ajax v Legia Warszawa
Ajax has not been playing to its potential this season, winning only one match in the group stage. Legia won three of four away matches in Europe and is capable of providing the upset in Amsterdam. If Ajax is not careful, Legia is capable of providing the upset in the Dutch team’s own stadium. I believe that this match will end in a draw.
Sevilla FC v VfL Borussia Monchengladbach
Defending champion Sevilla is on a five-match winning streak in European home matches. German club Gladbach on the other hand is unbeaten in eight European matches. The Spanish club also has the advantage due to a nine-match unbeaten record against German clubs at home while Gladbach is winless in four matches in Spain. I see a narrow win by Sevilla.
UEFA Europa League Round of 32 Schedule
February 20, Friday
2:00 a.m. – AS Roma v Feyenoord on Balls Channel 34
4:00 a.m. – Liverpool v Besiktas on Balls Channel 34
4:00 am - Celtic vs. Inter Milan LIVE on ABS-CBN Sports + Action 23
February 27, Friday
2:00 am - Inter Milan vs. Celtic LIVE on ABS-CBN Sports + Action 23
2:00 a.m. - Besiktas v Liverpool on Balls Channel 34
4:00 a.m. - Feyenoord v AS Roma on Balls Channel 34
“The smell of freshly-cut grass and the whiff of the chalk before a big game…and then it starts to rain. You. Are. Home.”