Chelsea have less work to do as Arsenal look to overcome a huge deficit
FOOTBALL By Brian Murumba | March 14th 2019 | 4 min read
Just when we thought that the Champions League summed up our football week, the Europa League is on us again with mouthwatering fixtures set for Thursday night.
Last week’s round of 16 first leg encounters saw top European sides put themselves in better positions going into the second leg while others’ dreams of making it to the last 8 hit proper obstacles. The most notable upset was Arsenal’s 3-1 loss to Rennes.
However, the nature of knockout football doesn’t favour anyone regardless of the advantage they think they have. Last week, we saw Dutch outfit Ajax Amsterdam come from behind to stun the mighty Los Blancos at the Bernabeu in Europe’s biggest club competition, the Champions League.
So, Thursday night joy is still up for grabs.
Game Yetu takes a look at the second leg fixtures that promise to live up to the hype:
Arsenal Vs Rennes
The Premier League giants welcome Stade Rennes at the Emirates Stadium in what is expected to be an epic clash thanks to the deficit suffered by Arsenal in the previous leg.
The London-based side suffered a 3-1 loss in France after Defender Sokratis saw red early in the first half. Arsenal started well with an early goal from Nigerian forward Alex Iwobi but things went south after they were reduced to 10 men.
Domestically, they have been in fine form after beating Manchester United 2-0 and will be hoping to use that as a morale-booster in their quest to overturn the 3-1 deficit. Rennes, on the other hand, will only need to hold off the Gunners’ attacks and get an early goal if possible.
Heinrikh Mkhitaryan faces a late fitness test, Bellerin, Welbeck, Rob Holding, remain sidelined with injury while Sokratis serves a ban for the red card he received in the first leg.
Hamari Traore returns from suspension for Rennes, James Lea Siliki is back from injury but could fall short of a starting place. Compared to Arsenal, Rennes have less to worry about in terms of matchday absentees.
Dynamo Kyiv Vs Chelsea
Despite their poor domestic outing during the weekend, Chelsea hold a huge advantage over Dynamo Kyiv as they travel to chilly Ukraine for the second leg.
The Premier league giants drew 1-1 with a stubborn Wolves side on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, piling more pressure on the already under-fire Coach Maurizio Sarri.
However, the Italian is expected to rotate his squad and give a number of fringe players a chance to impress. Youngsters like Reuben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi are expected to start.
Dynamo Kyiv pose a serious threat with their fine record of progressing from their last two Europa League knockout ties in which they have lost in the first legs away from home, knocking out Everton and Guingamp in the 2014-15 season.
Vitaliy Buyalskiy is banned for the Ukranian side after picking up a yellow card in the first leg. For Chelsea, Gonzalo Higuain is struggling with illness and will not be played on Thursday night.
Inter Milan Vs Eintracht Frankfurt
Inter Milan go into this fixture boasting a six-game unbeaten run in major European competitions. The Serie A giants have won four and drawn two. But Frankfurt also have an incredible record of having been beaten only once in their last 20 games in the Europa League.
Frankfurt have been in fine form domestically and will fancy their chances in the Thursday night fixture.
The two sides drew 0-0 in Germany.
Inter Milan are heavily troubled by a long list of absentees ahead of Thursday’s meeting.
Sime Vrsaljko is out with injury, Kwadwo Asamoah and Lautaro Martinez are suspended, Mauro Icardi is out for personal issues while Nainggolan, Brozovic and Miranda are doubtful.
Frankfurt have a shorter list with Lucas Torro, Ante Rebic, Timothy Chandler, David Abraham out through injury while Gelson Fernandes is suspended.
RB Salzburg Vs SS Napoli
Salzburg will be looking to break Valencia’s record of being the only one of the last 43 teams in the Europa League to have lost their first leg by three goals away from home and still managed to progress.
In 2013-14, Valencia went down 3-0 to Basel before thumping the Swiss outfit 5-0 at home to progress to the semis.
Napoli will be looking to progress to the quarterfinals of a major European competition since the 2014-15 Europa League campaign.
Salzburg will be without Marin Pongracic and Youba Diarra who are doubts while Xaver Schlager is suspended.
Napoli will miss the services of Kalidou Koulibaly and Nikola Maksimovic who are suspended while Raul Albiol is out injured.
Other matches of the evening include FC Krasnodar Vs Valencia, Benfica Vs Dinamo Zagreb, Villareal Vs Zenit and Slavia Prague Vs Sevilla.
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