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Preview: UEFA Europa League round of 16 first legs

Manchester United's meeting with AC Milan and Arsenal's rematch with Olympiacos catch the eye, but there's something for everyone on Thursday.

UEFA.com

Thursday 11 March, 18:55 CET
Ajax vs Young Boys
Dynamo Kyiv vs Villarreal
Manchester United vs AC Milan
Slavia Praha vs Rangers

Thursday 11 March, 21:00 CET
Roma vs Shakhtar
Olympiacos vs Arsenal
Tottenham vs Dinamo Zagreb
Granada vs Molde

Match of the week: Manchester United vs AC Milan

Zlatan Ibrahimović Man. United goals and assists
Zlatan Ibrahimović Man. United goals and assists

A meeting of bona fide European heavyweights. The sides have met ten times over the years, winning five apiece, with the English side triumphing 4-0 in the most recent back in 2010. Former United midfielder Paul Scholes is predicting similar this time round, emboldened by the English team's comprehensive victory at fancied Real Sociedad in the round of 32.

But Milan are pushing Inter hard at the top of Serie A and in the injured Zlatan Ibrahimović and Diogo Dalot, on loan from Old Trafford, they have insider knowledge. United have Bruno Fernandes, a player whose incredible form (26 goal involvements in as many outings in the competition) is underlined by his status as undisputed No1 in the FedEx Performance Zone.

Giantkillers meet

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær had his heart set on a meeting with former side Molde, and of course it could yet happen. The Norwegian outfit are, on paper, the lowest-ranked team left in the competition and now face the side one place above them, Granada.

Watch Molde keeper's stunning stops
Watch Molde keeper's stunning stops

Both are fresh from rousing round of 32 wins against Hoffenheim and Napoli respectively but how will the Spanish debutants, leaking goals of late, deal with being favourites this time?

Aubameyang seeks redemption

Every Hollywood thriller needs a redemption arc, and when Arsenal travel to Olympiacos, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be cast in the main role. Twelve months ago, when the same teams' round of 32 tie went to extra time, he put the Gunners ahead. An equaliser followed, and a plot twist: Aubameyang's last-gasp miss sealed the English side's away-goals fate. From hero to villain in a few minutes.

"Take the error from the past and transform it to strength," he said after his late intervention hauled Arsenal past Benfica in the last 32 this time around. Now the Gunners take their ten-match unbeaten run on their travels in the UEFA Europa League to Piraeus knowing an extension would give them a share of the competition record, a big lead to take back to north London and redemption for Aubameyang.

Another thing

Watch the best round of 32 goals
Watch the best round of 32 goals
  • There were 102 goals registered across the first knockout stage, smashing the previous record of 95 set in 2009/10 for a round in the UEFA Europa League. Will the goals continue to flow?
  • Ajax welcome Young Boys to Amsterdam on a run of nine successive UEFA Europa League home wins, only two shy of Sevilla's record set between 2014 and 2016.
  • Fortune has so far favoured teams who spread their attacking options: Of the competition's 14 leading scorers, only three remain in the competition. Carlos Vinícius (Tottenham), Paco Alcácer (Villarreal) and Borja Mayoral (Roma) are the trio bucking the trend.

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