We started this mini-series about the knock-out stages of the ongoing Europa League and Champions League with a review of the EL quarter-finals. With the Champions League quarter-finals still in full swing, this second instalment is a quick preview of the upcoming semi-finals of the Europa League. The first tie is set for Sunday, August 16th, and the second game takes place a day after.
SEVILLA vs MANCHESTER UNITED
The first semi-final encounter of the 2019-20 Europa League campaign will be one between two teams who very much dominated their respective quarter-final ties. Sevilla were responsible for the elimination of Europe’s marathon team Wolverhampton Wanderers, courtesy of a very late Lucas Ocampos goal, while Manchester United helped Copenhagen goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson achieve a record 13 saves (in a single EL game since 2009) before a Bruno Fernandes penalty in extra time decided the game. It’s hard to pick a real and true favourite in this game, but despite United’s history and financial superiority, we’d say Sevilla have the edge. Whether or not you agree with us, if you’re intent on betting your money on one of these two sides then it’s important you get an edge as well, so look out for sign up offers to give you a boost.
If there is any team in Europa with the Europa League in its DNA, it’s the Andalusian side. Reaching the final this year would mean their fourth final in the last seven years and their sixth final in the last fifteen years. They won all of those finals. On top of that, it was Sevilla who knocked out the Red Devils out of the Champions League knock-out stage just two years ago. Of course, both clubs have undergone plenty of changes and transformations over the past years, but the Spaniards have once again formed a strong roster during transfer market magician Monchi’s second tenure at the club. With the likes of Argentinian internationals Ocampos and Banega, Spanish ex-Man City veteran Jesus Navas, and the talented Real Madrid loanee Sergio Reguilón among their ranks, there is plenty for United to worry about.
That doesn’t mean that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United have nothing to offer in this game, on the contrary. The only, and admittedly most important, thing they lacked a few days ago against Copenhagen was a finishing touch. And perhaps a bit of luck. United dominated the game and it was nothing short of a miracle that the scoreboard displayed 0-0 after 90 minutes. As we mentioned before, Copenhagen’s goalkeeper Johnsson played the game of his life and the VAR wasn’t on United’s side either, but United did create an impressive 26 attempts on goal overall, 14 of which were on target. In Sevilla they are facing a team in good form that has conceded just a single goal in the last eight games over all competitions and one that will definitely not allow for such an amount of conceded chances. With cannons like Rashford, Greenwoord, Fernandes and Martial up front though, on a good day, United can tear down any defence.
Prediction: Sevilla 1 – 0 Manchester United
Inter Milan – Shakhtar Donetsk
As we wrote in our Europa League quarter-final review, Shakhtar Donetsk were the only side to win their encounter with a difference of more than 1 goal. The Ukrainians made quick work of Swiss side FC Basel beating them 4-1, while their semi-final opponents Inter Milan managed to translate their dominance against Bayer Leverkusen into “just” a 2-1 victory. The Italians will be considered favourites for this one, though.
Since the return of football a good two months ago, Antonio Conte’s men have been in fine form. In 13 Serie A games, they lost just once and finished one point behind champions Juventus, while they beat both Getafe in the Europa League’s round of 16 (2-0) and then Leverkusen in the next round (2-1). In Romelu Lukaku, the Italian side bolsters one of the finest strikers in EL history, as well. With his goal against Leverkusen, he became the first player in the tournament’s history to score at least once in nine consecutive games. He’s on 31 goals in total overall this season and he’ll surely be hoping for a showdown against his former club Manchester United in the final. With the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Christian Eriksen and Alexis Sanchez in support of the powerful Belgian, combined with one of Europe’s most stable defences, Inter are the favourite for this one and for the final victory.
First though, they will need to get past a very experienced Shakhtar Donetsk side. In Junior Moraes, the Ukranians have their own Romelu Lukaku in the sense that the 33-year old Brazilian has been scoring goals for fun this season. After netting 26 times in all competitions last season, he sits on 25 goals already this season. He scored 8 of those goals in the Europa League this season, and 3 of those were scored in the round of 16 and quarter-finals. The service is provided by a pair of compatriots of his, the tricky Taison and Marlos. Supported by a well-organised midfield, the Brazilian trio caused all kinds of trouble against Basel in the quarter-finals, but we feel Inter will probably be a bridge too far for the Ukrainians.
Prediction: Inter Milan 3 – 0 Shakhtar Donetsk