After a two-month winter break the UEFA Europa League returns this month, and with seven former tournament winners and five previous European champions making up the final 32 there are some mouth-watering ties to whet the appetite.
Two European giants go head-to-head as AFC Ajax take on Manchester United FC in Amsterdam; the 2011 UEFA Europa League winners FC Porto welcome Manchester City FC to the Estádio do Dragão; while fate dictates that new Club Atlético de Madrid coach Diego Simeone returns to Rome as a visiting coach for the first time, with his side travelling to the Italian capital to take on S.S. Lazio, the Argentinian's former club.
With a host of new players joining the competition from the UEFA Champions League, and a number leaving at the group stage, be sure you update your team before the action gets under way. With so many decisions to make, the Tipster returns with a few expert recommendations as to who you may wish to consider for your new-look team.
Christian Eriksen (AFC Ajax)
Twenty on St Valentine's Day, Danish international is fast becoming one of Europe's most coveted players – and the likes of Manchester United, FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC have all reportedly expressed an interest in the talented Danish playmaker. A skilful midfielder, he is comfortable in possession, has a wide range of passing and is also a goal threat with his fierce shot. Eriksen is available for €7m.
Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Clube de Portugal)
Standing at almost two metres tall, the towering United States centre-back has a strong physical presence at the back and is also likely to provide cause for concern for the Legia Warszawa defence when Sporting travel to Poland in the first leg. The 29-year-old has begun 2012 in fine form, scoring both goals in his side’s 2-0 victory against SC Beira-Mar in the Portuguese First Division on 29 January. He is available for €5m.
Matías Suárez (RSC Anderlecht)
With seven goals in his six group stage appearances, Suárez is the UEFA Europa League's leading scorer. The 23-year-old Argentinian has also been in prolific form domestically this term with another ten strikes. Anderlecht are riding high at the top of the Belgian First League and were the only side to progress past the group stage without dropping a point; with Suárez and his team-mates brimming with confidence, they could go far in European competition this season. He is available for €6.9m and represents a solid long-term investment.
Remember, you will be allowed unlimited transfers without losing any points, right up until the deadline on 14 February 2011 18.15CET.
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