What to look out for in the UEFA Europa League knockout round play-off second legs
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Entertainment looks guaranteed at Old Trafford, while Sheraldo Becker faces another Ajax reunion and Nantes hope to complete the job against Juventus.
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Eight places in the 2022/23 UEFA Europa League round of 16 draw will be filled in Thursday's knockout round play-off second legs.
In this piece presented by Enterprise, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the decisive fixtures.
Knockout round play-off second leg fixtures: 23 February
PSV Eindhoven vs Sevilla (0-3)
Monaco vs Leverkusen (3-2)
Midtjylland vs Sporting CP (1-1)
Nantes vs Juventus (1-1)
Roma vs Salzburg (0-1)
Union Berlin vs Ajax (0-0)
Rennes vs Shakhtar Donetsk (1-2)
Man United vs Barcelona (2-2)
Who is through to the last 16?
Real Sociedad (ESP)
Union Saint-Gilloise (BEL)
What to look out for
Another thriller at Old Trafford?
After their enthralling first leg at Camp Nou, much is expected of the decider between United and Barcelona. The Liga side emerged victorious on their last visit to Old Trafford in 2019, but there has been little to choose between the teams at the 'Theatre of Dreams' since the Red Devils' 3-0 triumph in the European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals in 1984. The sides played out entertaining 2-2 and 3-3 draws in the UEFA Champions League group stage in the 1990s, before a stunning Paul Scholes effort proved the difference in the 2007/08 semi-finals – United went on to lift the trophy in Moscow.
Ajax mission for Becker and Union Berlin
Union Berlin roared out of the blocks at the start of 2023, winning six in a row in all competitions to pile the pressure on Bundesliga leaders Bayern München and reach the quarter-finals of the German Cup. Victory in Berlin would maintain Die Eisernen's three-pronged pursuit of silverware and, after a consummate away performance earned them a goalless draw in Amsterdam, few would bet against it.
Union's top goalscorer this season, Sheraldo Becker, was born in the Dutch capital and came through the Ajax academy, but never made a senior appearance for the club. The Suriname striker joined ADO Den Haag in 2016, scoring 13 goals in 95 appearances before moving to the German capital three years later.
Nantes look for repeat in Juve 'final'
"Now we have a final on their turf," said Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri following his team's 1-1 draw with Nantes. The Ligue 1 side will attempt to draw inspiration from their only previous home meeting with the Old Lady in the 1995/96 UEFA Champions League semi-finals, although that 3-2 win proved in vain as Juventus nevertheless progressed to the final on aggregate.
L'Équipe praised Nantes for their "talent and humility" in Turin, while Gazzetta dello Sport suggested that Juve will most likely turn to Ángel Di María for further inspiration in northern France. The Bianconeri have fallen at the first hurdle of European knockout football in each of the past three seasons.
Where is the 2023 UEFA Europa League final being played?
The 2022/23 Europa League season will conclude at Budapest's Puskás Aréna on 31 May 2023.
Officially opened in 2019, the 65,000+ capacity ground stands on the site of the old Hungarian national team stadium, which was also named in honour of former Honvéd and Real Madrid forward Ferenc Puskás. The venue is located in the Zugló district of the Hungarian capital.