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Last 16 of the Europa League: Previews and predictions for this week's matches | Sports

Last 16 of the Europa League: Previews and predictions for this week's matches | Sports

Predictions and previews for this week's Europa League matches: Team news, strategy and form guide for the seven Europa League ties on Wednesday and Thursday!

RB Leipzig have been given a bye in the Europa League quarter-finals after Spartak Moscow were knocked out of competition by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  The first leg of the remaining seven last-16 matches will be played this week, while the second leg will be played next Thursday.

Porto v Lyon, Wednesday at 5:45 pm (GMT)

Porto were asked to work hard for their place in the last 16.  Lazio completely pushed them in their play-offs last month before losing 4-3 on aggregate.  Porto has been in excellent form this season.  Not only do they have a six-point lead at the top of the Primeira Liga, but they are also unbeaten in the league.  Their 4-2 win at Pacos de Ferreira over the weekend was the perfect preparation for a trip to Lyon.

They will be without Wendell, who has been suspended, when they welcome Lyon to the Estadio do Drago on Wednesday evening.  Vitinha and Marco Grujic are battling partner Mateus Uribe in the middle of the park, while Mehdi Taremi has been in excellent form of late and should come forward with Tony Martinez.  Porto have an excellent record against French sides and they defeated Lyon in the quarter-finals when they won the Champions League under Jose Mourinho in 2004.

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For Lyon, both Ryan Cherki and Sinali Diomande are prone to injury, with manager Peter Bos expected to ask midfielder Thiago Mendes to deputize at the center of defense for Diomande.  The French trio of Houssem Aouar, Tanguy Ndombele and Maxence Caqueret are battling for two places on a 4-2-3-1 basis.

It has been a disappointing season for Lyon in Ligue 1.  They are ranked ninth in the table – just as many points behind league leaders, PSG, as the bottom club, above Bordeaux.  But their form has picked up in recent weeks, coming into the tie with a 4-1 win at Lorient at the weekend.  Romain Favre made a man-of-the-match performance and, in another boost for Boas, Jeff Reine-Adelaide came off the bench to make his first appearance for the club in 13 months after recovering from an ACL injury.  

Prediction: Porto 2-2 Lyon

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Real Betis v Eintracht Frankfurt, Wednesday at 5:45 pm

Real Betis Zenit got away with it in their play-off against St. Petersburg.  The Russian side were not allowed to score two goals in the second leg - the second coming after a late VAR check - and Betis won 3–2 on aggregate.

It is going to be a good season for Betis, who have already made it to the Copa del Rey final.  They will be driven to reach the final of the Europa League, as it is being held in their city - although not their stadium - but they go into this tie with injury problems on the left.  Juan Miranda and Alex Moreno joined Martin Montoya, and the veteran Andres Guardado - who deputized for the former pair - was forced out after only 11 minutes in their 3-1 loss to Atletico Madrid on Sunday.  Etore Rubel has played at right-back earlier this season and can drop to left-back, but it's hardly ideal.

Eintracht Frankfurt, who are in the bottom half of the Bundesliga table, are without the suspended Goncalo Paciencia, but Rafael Borre has established himself as their first-choice striker.  Ragnar Eche and Diant Ramaz have been ruled out with injury, but Martin Hintergeger was fit enough to start their 4-1 win at Hertha Berlin over the weekend and is expected to retain his spot after a solid performance  .  

Prediction: Real Betis 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt 

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Sevilla v West Ham, Thursday 5:45 pm 

Sevilla was in a scare in the play-off round against Dinamo Zagreb, scrapping 3–2 on aggregate after a 1–0 loss in the second leg.  They have to improve their game if they want to beat West Ham and continue their incredible performance in the Europa League.  With the final to be held at Ramon Sanchez Pizzuan Stadium, he should be one of the favourites.

Sevilla will be without the injured Suso and suspended Thomas Delaney on Thursday evening, with Eric Lamela, Papu Gomez, Karim Rekic and Anthony Martial all in doubt.  Julen Lopetegui will be keen for Martial given that he has scored six times against the Hammers, making him his second favorite in scoring goals (after Everton).

West Ham is also likely to be missing an important forward.  Jarrod Bowen suffered a heel injury in West Ham's 1-0 defeat at Liverpool on Saturday, and while scans showed he suffered no significant damage, he will most likely be replaced by Nikola Vlasic or Said Benrahma.  David Moyes would have hoped that Declan Rice would have recovered from illness in time to play, but Angelo Ogbona and Vladimir Kaufal have been sidelined.  

Prediction: Sevilla 2-0 West Ham

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Barcelona v Galatasaray, Thursday at 8 p.m.

Barcelona excelled in a Europa League play-off win over Napoli, leading 5–3 on aggregate.  Xavi will hope to tighten up defensively when Galatasaray visits Camp Nou, but Barca are in excellent form.  They are unbeaten in eight matches and have won six of them.

Danny Alves has not been included in Barcelona's squad for the Europa League and Samuel Umeti, Anu Fati, Alejandro Balde and Sergi Roberto have been sidelined with injury, although only Fati would have started the injured quartet.  Memphis Depay has come off the bench to score in back-to-back victories over Athletic Bilbao and Elche after his return from injury and could join Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - who has scored 26 goals in the Europa League -  and Osman Dembele.  Frontline at the expense of Gavi.  The Xavi Invader is not short of options, Ferran Torres and Adama Traore are also available.  Jordi Alba is in line to make his 100th appearance in Europe for Barcelona.

It has been a shocking season for Galatasaray, who are currently 12th in the Turkish Super Liga and with no clear path to Europe next season other than winning the Europa League.  The good news is that he has no injuries or suspension concerns for his first visit to Camp Nou in 20 years.  Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera returned to the side after a 2-0 weekend defeat at Konyaspor for the first time since December and could return to the starting XI this week.  Winter arrivals Eric Pulgar and Bafetimbi Gomis are set to start in midfield and attack respectively.  

Prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Galatasaray

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Atalanta v Bayer Leverkusen, Thursday at 8 pm

Atalanta beat Olympiakos in the play-off round, winning 5–1 on aggregate, but are given a hard draw in the last 16.  The Italian side has some injury concerns, especially in the attack.  Strikers Josip Ilicic and Duvan Zapata have been ruled out.  In his absence, Luis Muriel is likely to lead the side from Gian Piero Gasperini, with Ruslan Malinowski and Jeremy Boga backing the Colombian.  David Zappacosta was forced out in the first half of their 1-0 loss to Roma on Saturday and could be out, meaning Hase Hateboar could feature on the right.

Bayer Leverkusen remain without the services of their top scorer Patrick Schick, but they have done well without him, beating Arminia Bielefeld and drawing with Bayern Munich in his absence.  Lucas Alario should start in the front line, although January arrival chieftain Azmoun is also an option.  Karem Demirbe has been suspended, so Xaquiel Palacios is ready to partner Charles Aranguez in the middle of the park, while Karim Bellarabi and Andrey Lunev join Schick in the physio room.  It will be Bayer's 50th match in the Europa League - a record for a German club.  

Prediction: Atalanta 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen

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Braga v Monaco, Thursday at 8 p.m.

Braga made it to the last 16 after defeating Sheriff in the play-off round.  They lost the first leg 2–0 in Moldova, but responded with a 2–0 win of their own in the return leg in Portugal and eventually won the tie.  on punishment.  He has only scored 24 goals in his 25 Primeira Liga games this season, but his resolve will be put to the test against a Ligue 1 side that has scored in nine of their last 10.

The Archbishop has progressed from his last two previous 16 ties in the Europa League, eliminating Liverpool in 2010–11 and Fenerbahce in 2015–16.  They have won their home matches in both these matches, so Thursday night's match will be crucial.

Paulo Oliveira returned for Braga's 1-1 draw with Boavista on Saturday and is a substitute for manager Carlos Carvahl.  The late Oliveira was replaced by Diogo Leite against Boavista, and he is likely to start on Thursday.  Elsewhere, Carvahl remains without the injured trio of Lucas Mineiro, Nuno Sequeira and Roger Fernandes for the first leg.

Monaco manager, Philippe Clement, is without Joseph Fofana suspended after his sack against Real Sociedad in November, so young Eliot Matzo can once again make a midfield deputation.  Krepin Dieta has been sidelined, but Alexander Golovin returned from injury against Marseille at the weekend, which is a boost.  Benot Badiachile also won for the first time in January, although he was withdrawn with 12 minutes of play perhaps to save for Thursday night. 

Prediction: Braga 1-1 Monaco

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Rangers v Red Star Belgrade, Thursday at 8 p.m.

Rangers upset the odds after beating competition favorites Borussia Dortmund 6–4 on aggregate in their play-off clash.  The Scottish champions have only lost once in 2022, a 3–0 loss to Celtic, and this is their only defeat in their last 23 matches in all competitions.  However, Red Star is also in excellent form.  They are on an unbeaten streak of 14 matches and have won six in a row.

There is some history to both of these sides.  They met at the European Cup in the 1964–65 season.  Rangers won the first leg 3–1 in Glasgow and Red Star won the second leg 4–2 in Belgrade.  With no goals to separate the teams, they had a play-off at Highbury, which Rangers won 3–1 after extra time.

In terms of team news, Ryan Jack started Rangers' 1-0 win over Aberdeen on Saturday and is available after a brief stint.  Aaron Ramsey and Philip Helander were fit enough for the bench over the weekend, so should be fine for a Thursday night at Ibrox.  However, Giovanni van Bronkhorst worries over Steven Davies and Amad Diallo, and Iannis Hagi remains absent after knee surgery.

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Red Star manager, Dejan Stankovic, must decide whether to go with the three-man defense used in half of his team's group games or go back to his more usual 4-2-3-1 system.  Alexander Katai scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Novi Pazar over the weekend, and has scored in each of his side's last three matches, so Glasgow will be full of confidence. 

Prediction: Rangers 2-1 Red Star Belgrade

Source: Ben McAleer for Huskord, The Guardian