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Europa League quarter-final first legs: Game-by-game preview

Get the lowdown on the four matches as the 2023/24 UEFA Europa League quarter-finals kick off.

Jürgen Klopp and Gian Piero Gasperini bump fists ahead of Liverpool's first meeting with Atalanta in November 2020
Jürgen Klopp and Gian Piero Gasperini bump fists ahead of Liverpool's first meeting with Atalanta in November 2020 Liverpool FC via Getty Images

An all-Italian tie, a "tricky" assignment for Liverpool and another test of Xabi Alonso's on-song Leverkusen are among the highlights of the first night of UEFA Europa League quarter-finals.

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Thursday 11 April

Milan vs Roma

An all-Italian tie should lower travel costs for both sides, but means an exceptionally tough contest on the pitch. In terms of Serie A, Inter seem to have the title race wrapped up, giving Stefano Pioli's Milan that little bit more motivation in the Europa League. "The goal is to finish as high as possible in the league and to win the Europa League," explained centre-back Fikayo Tomori. With Christian Pulisic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Olivier Giroud and Rafael Leao scoring regularly, the Rossoneri have earned the right to dream.

Roma have played four previous all-Italian ties (W1 D1 L2), comprising an aggregate loss to Inter in the 1991 UEFA Cup final and an exit to Fiorentina in the 2014/15 Europa League round of 16. However, hope springs eternal since the arrival of club playing great Daniele De Rossi as coach. "Being competitive, fighting for our goals and trying to achieve them are the only priorities that my staff and I have given ourselves," he said when appointed in January. A general upturn in results suggests they must be doing something right.

Did you know?
The Giallorossi have won just one of their last 13 meetings against Milan, a 2-1 Serie A home success in October 2019. Milan have won both encounters this season, Giroud finding the net in each of them.

Massaro on Milan's Roma date

Liverpool vs Atalanta

Liverpool lost out to Man United in the FA Cup quarter-finals, but with the League Cup already in the bag, a treble remains a possibility in Jürgen Klopp's final season in charge. However, the German will not be looking beyond Atalanta for the time being, having described La Dea as "tricky". "I am really looking forward to it," he added. "Let's see what we can do. I have a lot of respect for what Atalanta have been doing in the last few years. Very consistent team."

Gian Piero Gasperini's attack-minded side did not enjoy their first date with Liverpool in the 2020/21 Champions League, a 5-0 home loss leading the coach to conclude "they blew us out of the water in terms of intensity". However, having eliminated Portuguese Liga leaders Sporting CP in the last round, the Bergamo outfit have showed they can stand up to the continental old guard, while forward Ademola Lookman may have some extra motivation, having played for Liverpool's city rivals Everton. 

Did you know?
Atalanta won 2-0 in their only previous game at Anfield, in November 2020 in the Champions League group stage; "winning here against a side like this is incredible," said Gasperini.

Two-minute highlights: Liverpool 0-2 Atalanta

 

What next?

Semi-finals

First legs
Thursday 2 May
Benfica / Marseille vs Liverpool / Atalanta (21:00 CET)
Milan / Roma vs Leverkusen / West Ham (21:00 CET)

Second legs
Thursday 9 May
Liverpool / Atalanta vs Benfica / Marseille (21:00 CET)
Leverkusen / West Ham vs Milan / Roma (21:00 CET)

Leverkusen vs West Ham

Top of the Bundesliga and enjoying a startling season, Leverkusen rode their luck a little to make it to the Europa League quarter-finals, trailing 2-0 at home (and 4-2 on aggregate) against Qarabağ in the last-16 decider before scoring three late on to earn their place in the draw. Last season's Europa Conference League winners West Ham are serious opponents, but coach Xabi Alonso is not too distressed at the prospect of the Hammers; "every team would have been tough," said the Spaniard.

Leverkusen were undoubtedly not one of the sides West Ham would have most relished drawing at this stage, and manager David Moyes will not have forgotten that his team lost 4-0 when they met Leverkusen in an August 2023 friendly. However, forward Michail Antonio is not the only Hammer who has come to enjoy their Thursday-night action over the course of the last three seasons. "Whenever we get into Europe we believe and have got the confidence to win," he said after the quarter-final draw. "There's some big names out there but one thing we know how to do is win games in Europe."

Did you know?
Leverkusen boss Alonso scored in Liverpool's 2-0 Premier League defeat of West Ham in October 2005, and was part of the Reds side that lifted the 2005/06 FA Cup after an epic final against the Hammers that required a penalty shoot-out.

Noble looking forward to West Ham's Leverkusen challenge

Benfica vs Marseille

Having stormed to Portuguese title success last term in their first campaign under Roger Schmidt, Benfica have found the going a little tougher this time, a 5-0 loss at Porto in early March coming in the wake of elimination from the Portuguese Cup at the hands of Lisbon rivals Sporting CP. However, Europa League round of 16 success against Rangers has restored some equilibrium. "I take these things as they come," said Schmidt as he looked ahead to the quarter-finals.

Marseille have had some significant mood swings in recent months, but the arrival of coach Jean-Louis Gasset on a short-term contract has raised morale, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's goals have propelled him to the top of the Europa League scorers' rankings. Midfielder Amine Harit said: "At the start of 2024, we were having quite a tough time. Today, things are starting to settle down. We are getting back on track. We will try to continue like this."

Did you know?
Benfica and Marseille have played four previous matches, the Portuguese club winning on away goals in the 1989/90 European Cup semi-final after a 2-2 aggregate draw: 1-2 a, 1-0 h). They also prevailed in the 2009/10 Europa League round of 16, going through 3-2 on aggregate thanks to a 2-1 second-leg win in the south of France.

Highlights: Rangers 0-1 Benfica

What are the quarter-finals?

The round pits the eight winners from the UEFA Europa Conference League round of 16 against each other. Ties are played over two legs and conclude on Thursday 18 April; the away goals rule has been abolished.

The four winners advance to the semi-finals; the four losers will no longer be involved in 2023/24 European competition.

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