It's back! With 16 games in one night, the UEFA Europa League explodes into 2021.
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With 1,440 minutes of football crammed into the first matchnight of 2021, the UEFA Europa League returns with a frenzy of football on Thursday
With the 2021 final in Gdańsk hovering in to view, it is two-legged knockout ties all the way from here on in. Who can secure a decisive advantage in the first legs?
Thursday 18 February, 16:00 CET
Dynamo Kyiv vs Club Brugge
Thursday 18 February, 18:55 CET
Wolfsberg vs Tottenham
Real Sociedad vs Manchester United
Crvena zvezda vs AC Milan
Slavia Praha vs Leicester
Braga vs Roma
Krasnodar vs Dinamo Zagreb
Young Boys vs Leverkusen
Olympiacos vs PSV Eindhoven
Match of the week: Real Sociedad vs Manchester United
"It sounds like a Champions League draw and it's definitely one that keeps everyone on their toes," said Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær after the round of 32 draw paired his side with the team that was then top of the Spanish Liga. Imanol Alguacil's men have slipped down the rankings since, but the threat remains, not least because United have not won in their last nine meetings with Spanish opposition (D3 L6).
Old Trafford old boy Adnan Januzaj will relish a shot at his former club almost as much as team-mate David Silva, who represented City in a good number of Manchester derbies. As the only former UEFA Europa League winners left in this season’s competition, United are the side everyone wants to beat. La Real, meanwhile, are a team no one is eager to face. "They're an exciting team and it'll be a test for us,” said Solskjær.
Worth pointing out
• In terms of goals, there was little to choose between the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Champions League after the group stage: there was an average of 3.09 goals per Europa League game and 3.01 per Champions League game. Ultra long-range efforts have been a Europa League hallmark, however: check out Kemar Roofe, Jordi Gómez and Harry Winks' efforts.
• Benfica vs Arsenal offers plenty of old-school UEFA Champions League glamour, and another chance for Pizzi to sparkle. The 31-year-old tops this season's UEFA Europa League scorers chart on six goals (level with LOSC's Yusuf Yazıcı), with team-mate Darwin Nuñez just one behind.
• The FedEx Performance Zone has continued to track UEFA Europa League players' form throughout the winter, with Leverkusen's Leon Bailey leading the rankings. The Jamaican winger supplied five goals and two assists in the group stage; will he add to that haul against Young Boys?
• Tottenham manager José Mourinho is looking to maintain a 100% record in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League; he has entered the competition just twice before (in 2002/03 with Porto and 2016/17 with Man. United) and ended up with a winners' medal both times. Spurs take on Wolfsberg, the lowest-ranked side among the last 32.