Arsenal with back to the wall  ; United confident in Europa League

MONDE ENTIER :: Arsenal with back to the wall ; United confident in Europa League :: WORLD

 UEFA Europa League quarter-finals return leg is on this week. Aubameyang’s Arsenal is in a tough spot after their disappointing draw against Slavia Prague at home last week. Manchester United will be much more confident thanks to Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes’ goals that gave the Reds a 2-0 victory.

Of the four home sides in last week’s first leg quarter-final matches of the Europa League, Arsenal achieved the best result.

The Gunners were the only club to avoid defeat in their own stadium, though the Premier League club were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Slavia Prague.

In the first leg, Ivorian winger Nicolas Pépé gave Arsenal a late lead – five minutes from the end.

But just when Mikel Arteta’s side seemed to be able to take a one-goal advantage into Thursday’s away leg, Czech international defender Tomáš Holeš found an equalizer five minutes into injury time.

Slavia though, will be weary of Arsenal’s away form in the competition, as the London side has yet to lose an away game in the Europa League this season.

They have won four of the six matches they have played away from home and drawn the other two.

On the weekend, they added another away win – albeit in the Premier League. Alexandre Lacazette scored twice in the 3-0 win at Sheffield United, while young Brazilian striker Martinelli scored the other.

Arteta was forced to make several changes ahead of the game against Sheffield United. "David [Luiz] is injured, Kieran [Tierney] is injured, Auba [Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang] is unwell, Martin [Odegaard] is injured and Emile [Smith Rowe] is injured, so they are all out.

"We were going to make some changes anyway but we've lost some very important players in the last few weeks," the coach said.

Needing to score at least one goal in Prague to stand a chance to advance, Arteta will be hoping that he can count on Gabon star Aubameyang for the return leg.

Arteta’s Manchester United’s counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjær will go into their return leg feeling much more confident after the Reds won the first leg 2-0 in Granada, courtesy of Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes’ goals.

And United continued their fine run of form with a 3-1 victory at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, with goals by Fred, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood.

The result keeps United in second place – nine points behind city rivals Manchester City.

With a number of important matches coming up, Solskjær could well give some of his regular starters, like Paul Pogba or even Fernandes, a rest.

The two other quarter-finals see La Liga club Villarreal take on Dinamo Zagreb in Spain with a 1-0 lead from the away leg, while Roma defend a 2-1 lead at home against Ajax Amsterdam.

Since being re-launched as the Europa League in 2009, the competition has grown in stature and regularly grabs its share of footballing headlines. With clubs like Arsenal and United involved, the world will be watching this week’s return legs in the quarter-finals.

African football fans will have a chance to watch the games live and exclusively on the StarTimes channels as Africa’s leading digital-TV operator broadcasts all the action from the exciting Europa League.

And two months from now, StarTimes is going to broadcast all matches of the long awaited UEFA Euro 2020 live and in HD.

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By Peter Auf der Heyde

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