What to look out for in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 deciders
Thursday, 16 March 2023
Why Arsenal are wary of history repeating, Ángel Di María is on the trophy hunt and Fenerbahçe have cause for optimism against Sevilla.
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Places in the 2022/23 UEFA Europa League quarter-finals are up for grabs in Thursday's round of 16 second legs, with plenty still to play for after the opening salvos.
In this piece presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the last-16 deciders.
Round of 16 second legs: 16 March
Fenerbahçe vs Sevilla (0-2)
Freiburg vs Juventus (0-1)
Betis vs Man United (1-4)
Feyenoord vs Shakhtar (1-1)
Union SG vs Union Berlin (3-3)
Ferencváros vs Leverkusen (0-2)
Arsenal vs Sporting CP (2-2)
Real Sociedad vs Roma (0-2)
What to look out for
Déjà vu for Arsenal?
Paulinho's wayward shot less than a minute before Hidemasa Morita's own goal was arguably the decisive moment of Sporting CP's 2-2 first leg draw with Arsenal. But he can take heart from the fact that his earlier goal for Rúben Amorim's men has opened up the chance of a repeat statistical nightmare for Arsenal.
The Portuguese forward became only the second player to score against both Arsenal and Tottenham in a single season in European competition – he struck against Spurs in the UEFA Champions League group stage – after Youssef El-Arabi for Olympiacos in 2019/20. The Greek outfit had the last laugh that season, eliminating the Gunners from the Europa League in London.
Di María on a mission
"Ángel Di María is a joy to watch," said Freiburg boss Christian Streich after witnessing the Argentinian playmaker cap an effervescent performance for Juventus with the only goal of the first leg. Now 35, the serial winner looks as hungry and driven as ever and, with Serie A title hopes over, he looks to be zeroing in on the Europa League.
Di María was at his scintillating best as he scythed through Nantes in the knockout round play-off second leg, registering only the third hat-trick in the competition this season. Freiburg could easily have conceded the fourth in Turin. "Ángel is a phenomenon, in another category," said Juve midfielder Manuel Locatelli. "He really is a champion." On 31 May, in Budapest, he might be.
Fenerbahçe not done yet
On paper, a 2-0 deficit to the competition's record six-time winners appears daunting. Only one club has ever come from further behind in the second leg of a Europa League tie, and it is a decade since Fenerbahçe last graced the quarter-finals of a UEFA competition. And yet, the Turkish outfit are certainly not out of their tie against Sevilla.
Jorge Sampaoli admitted the visitors were the better team for much of the first leg in Spain, and with his side flirting with Liga relegation, an early goal for the hosts in Istanbul could really knock Sevilla's fragile confidence. "If we play like we did in the first half in our stadium, we can score goals," warned Fenerbahçe boss Jorge Jesus.
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.