Anderlecht v Manchester United
In his first season in Manchester, Jose Mourinho has a great chance to secure Champions League football for the Red Devils, if you believe former boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
Into the last 8 of the Europa League, Manchester United are now in touching distance of a European trophy which can also see them go into the Champions League if they are victorious. Unsurprisingly, Mourinho’s side are favourites to lift the Europa League.
When the fixtures take place in around two weeks time, Manchester United will be up against Anderlecht, who will prove to be a tricky side with real quality in their ranks too. Last time out, United did not flatten Rostov as many had expected – but Anderlecht will force the Reds to up their levels and intensity.
No doubt that United will miss Phil Jones and Chris Smalling who are both set to miss the game due to injury, which will hamper United’s defensive options. Lukasz Teordoczyk and Youri Tielemans are the danger-men for the Belgians, having scored 32 goals in the domestic league this season.
The two sides have met six times before in Europe, Anderlecht winning two and United winning four. One of those wins includes a 10-0 romping in the European Cup in 1956, which still remains as Anderlecht’s heaviest lost in any UEFA competition.
Whilst such a thrashing is probably off the cards this time around, I would ultimately be surprised if Mourinho did not beat the Belgians in his quest for another Europa League trophy.
Lyon v Beşiktaş
Elsewhere, Beskitas face Lyon in the Quarter-Finals in another game that is going to be too close to call for neutrals. On paper, you’d expect the French team to be victorious across the two legs. But the occasion plays into the hands of the Turks, who are in their first Europa League Quarter-Final since 2003, and their third European last 8 in their entire history.
If Lyon manage to perform well in the first leg and pick up a victory, they’ll still need to perform to the highest level when travelling to Turkey in front of an always loud 44,000 crowd for the second leg.
Lyon have only lost 2 of their last 9 games; against PSG and Roma, the latter once they’d already won the first leg 4-2. Alexandre Lacazatte’s prolific record boosts the chances of the French side, alongside Matiheu Valbuena who will try to ensure that Lyon aren’t affected by the ineligble Memphis Depay. In their last 4 games, they’ve scored 16 goals in the Europa League and they will hope to keep their scoring run going.
Beskitas have their own talented squad who hope to make history; such as Gokhan Inler, Vincent Aboubakar and Ricardo Quaresma. Cenk Tosun is the Turk’s talisman, having scored 24 goals this season including 3 in the Europa League.
Ajax v Schalke 04
In the third game of the round, Ajax will face Schalke in a matchup that the Germans should be expected to win. Nabil Bentaleb has rejuvenated the side who have struggled in the past 18 months domestically compared to their normal high standards.
Although the Germans are still slumping in the Bundesliga in 9th place, their Europa League form has been considerably stronger having lost only one game of the 10 that they’ve played. The one defeat came in their last group game, having already guaranteed qualification as they had won their previous 5 games.
Ajax will be motivated going into the game. 6 points off top spot in the league might be too much to fight back, but they know that the Germans will be vulnerable if the Dutch side can find their form. Ziyech and Schone will need to be as creative and direct as they regularly are and will hope that Kasper Dolberg will have his shooting boots on. The Danish forward has scored 13 goals in the Eredivisie this season.
Ajax go into the game on an 11 game unbeaten run in Europe, whilst Schalke have only managed to draw their last 3 Europa League games but still qualified on away rules. Although the underdogs, Ajax will be keen to make it into a European Semi-Final for the first time since 1997.
Celta Vigo v Genk
In the final game, Celta Vigo take on Genk. In their history, Celta Vigo have made 3 European Quarter-Finals and have lost all of those ties, but Genk are making this stage in the competition for the first time too. Either way, one of these clubs will make history by making it into a European Semi-Final for the first occasion.
This will be the first time that these two sides meet in a UEFA competition, but Genk have only beaten a Spanish side once before. Earlier this season they faced Atheltic Club in the group stage as Aritz Adruiz became the first player to score 5 goals in a Europa League match.
You’d think that Celta Vigo will be too strong for Genk. They’ve scored at least twice in each of their seven continental away games and are unbeaten at home this year in the Europa League.
Will we see any shocks in the Quarter-Finals?