Friday, December 8

Europa League last 16: previews and predictions for this week’s ties | Europe League

RB Leipzig have been given a bye into the Europa League quarter-finals after Spartak Moscow were kicked out of the competition due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The first legs of the seven remaining last-16 ties will be played this week, with the second legs coming next Thursday.

Porto v Lyon, Wednesday 5:45pm (GMT)

Porto were made to work hard for their spot in the last 16. Lazio pushed them all the way in their play-off last month before losing 4-3 on aggregate. Porto have been in great shape this season; not only do they have a six-point lead at the top of the Primeira Liga, but they are also unbeaten in the league. Their 4-2 win at Paços de Ferreira over the weekend was the perfect preparation for the visit of Lyon.

They will be without Wendell, who is suspended, when they welcome Lyon to the Estádio do Dragão on Wednesday evening. Vitinha and Marko Grujic are battling to partner Mateus Uribe in the middle of the park, while Mehdi Taremi has been in stunning form of late and should join Toni Martínez up front. Porto have a great record against French sides and they beat Lyon in the quarter-finals when they won the Champions League under José Mourinho in 2004.

For Lyon, Rayan Cherki and Sinaly Diomande are both likely to miss out through injury, with the manager, Peter Bosz, expected to ask the midfielder Thiago Mendes to deputize at the heart of the defense for Diomande. The French trio of Houssem Aouar, Tanguy Ndombele and Maxence Caqueret are battling for two spots at the base of the 4-2-3-1.

It has been a disappointing season for Lyon in Ligue 1. They are ninth in the table – as many points behind the league leaders, PSG, as they are above the bottom club, Bordeaux. But their form has picked up in recent weeks and they are coming into this tie on the back of a rampant 4-1 win at Lorient at the weekend. Romain Faivre put in a man-of-the-match display and, in another boost for Bosz, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde came off the bench to make his first appearance for the club in 13 months after recovering from an ACL injury. Prediction: Porto 2-2 Lyon

Real Betis v Eintracht Frankfurt, Wednesday 5:45pm

Real Betis got away with it in their play-off against Zenit St Petersburg. The Russian side had two goals disallowed in the second leg – the second coming after a late VAR check – and Betis snuck through 3-2 on aggregate.

This is shaping up to be a good season for Betis, who have already booked their place in the Copa del Rey final. They will be motivated to reach the Europa League final given it is being hosted in their city – although not their stadium – but they go into this tie with injury problems at left-back. Juan Miranda and Alex Moreno join Martin Montoya on the sidelines, and the experienced Andrés Guardado – who deputized for the former pair – was forced off after only 11 minutes in their 3-1 defeat to Atlético Madrid on Sunday. Aitor Ruibal has previously played at right-back this season and he could drop into left-back, but it is hardly ideal.

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Eintracht Frankfurt, who are in the bottom half of the Bundesliga table, are without the suspended Gonçalo Paciência, but Rafael Borré has established himself as their first-choice striker. Ragnar Ache and Diant Ramaj are ruled out through injury, but Martin Hinteregger was fit enough to start in their 4-1 win at Hertha Berlin at the weekend and is expected to keep his spot after a solid display. Prediction: Real Betis 1-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

Seville v West Ham, Thursday 5:45pm

Sevilla had a scare in the play-off round against Dinamo Zagreb, scraping through 3-2 on aggregate after a 1-0 defeat in the second leg. They will need to up their game if they are to beat West Ham and continue their incredible run in the Europa League. With the final being held at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium, they have to be among the favourites.

Sevilla will be without the injured Suso and suspended Thomas Delaney on Thursday evening, with Érik Lamela, Papu Gómez, Karim Rekik and Anthony Martial all doubts. Julen Lopetegui will be keen for Martial to make it given that he has scored six times against the Hammers, making them his second favorite opponent in terms of goals scored (after Everton).

West Ham are also likely to be missing an important forward. Jarrod Bowen sustained a heel injury in West Ham’s 1-0 defeat at Liverpool on Saturday and, while scans showed he suffered no significant damage, he will most likely be replaced by either Nikola Vlasic or Saïd Benrahma. David Moyes will hope Declan Rice has recovered from illness in time to play, but Angelo Ogbonna and Vladimir Coufal are sidelined. Prediction: Seville 2-0 West Ham

Barcelona v Galatasaray, Thursday 8pm

Barcelona were excellent in their Europa League play-off win over Napoli, progressing 5-3 on aggregate. Xavi will hope to tighten up defensively when Galatasaray visit the Camp Nou, but Barça are in great form. They are unbeaten in eight games and have won six of them.

Dani Alves has not been included in Barcelona’s squad for the Europa League and Samuel Umtiti, Ansu Fati, Alejandro Balde and Sergi Roberto are sidelined with injury, though only Fati would likely have started of the injured quartet. Memphis Depay has come off the bench to score in back-to-back wins over Athletic Bilbao and Elche following his return from injury and he may join Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – who has scored 26 goals in the Europa League – and Ousmane Dembélé on the frontline at the expense of Gavi. Xavi is not short of attacking options, with Ferran Torres and Adama Traoré also available. Jordi Alba is in line to make his 100th appearance in Europe for Barcelona.

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This has been a shocking season for Galatasaray, who are currently 12th in the Turkish Super Lig and have no obvious route back into Europe next season other than winning the Europa League. The good news is that they have no injury or suspension concerns for their first trip to the Camp Nou in 20 years. The goalkeeper Fernando Muslera was back in the squad for the first time since December in their 2-0 defeat at Konyaspor at the weekend and may return to the starting XI this week. Winter arrivals Erick Pulgar and Bafetimbi Gomis are set to start in midfield and attack, respectively. Prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Galatasaray

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates after scoring against Athletic Bilbao. Photograph: Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images

Atalanta v Bayer Leverkusen, Thursday 8pm

Atalanta eased past Olympiacos in the play-off round, winning 5-1 on aggregate, but they have been given a tougher draw in the last 16. The Italian side have a couple of injury concerns, particularly in attack. The strikers Josip Ilicic and Duván Zapata have been ruled out. In their absence, Luis Muriel is likely to lead the line for Gian Piero Gasperini’s side, with Ruslan Malinovskyi and Jérémie Boga supporting the Colombian. Davide Zappacosta was forced off in the first half of their 1-0 defeat to Roma on Saturday and may drop out, which could mean Hans Hateboer featuring on the right.

Bayer Leverkusen remain without the services of their top scorer, Patrik Schick, but they have fared well without him, beating Arminia Bielefeld and drawing with Bayern Munich in his absence. Lucas Alario should start on the frontline, though the January arrival Sardar Azmoun is also an option. Kerem Demirbay is suspended, so Exequiel Palacios is set to partner Charles Aranguiz in the middle of the park, while Karim Bellarabi and Andrey Lunev join Schick in the physio room. This will be Bayer’s 50th match in the Europa League – a record for a German club. Prediction: Atalanta 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen

Braga v Monaco, Thursday 8pm

Braga beat Sheriff in the play-off round to book their place in the last 16. They lost the first leg 2-0 in Moldova but responded with a 2-0 win of their own in the return leg in Portugal and eventually won the tie on penalties. They have only conceded 24 goals in their 25 Primeira Liga games this season, but their resolve will be put to the test against a Ligue 1 side that have scored in nine of their last 10.

The Archbishops have progressed from their two previous last 16 ties in the Europa League, eliminating Liverpool in 2010-11 and Fenerbahce in 2015-16. They won their home games in both of those ties, so the match on Thursday night will be crucial.

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Paulo Oliveira returned to action for Braga’s 1-1 draw with Boavista on Saturday and is an option for the manager, Carlos Carvalhal. Diogo Leite replaced Oliveira late on against Boavista, however, and he is likely to start on Thursday. Elsewhere, Carvalhal remains without the injured trio of Lucas Mineiro, Nuno Sequeira and Roger Fernandes for the first leg.

The Monaco manager, Philippe Clement, is without the suspended Youssouf Fofana after his dismissal against Real Sociedad in November, so the youngster Eliot Matazo may be deputized in midfield once more. Krepin Diatta is sidelined, but Aleksandr Golovin returned from injury against Marseille at the weekend, which is a boost. Benoît Badiashile also featured for the first time in January in the win, though he was withdrawn with 12 minutes to play to perhaps save him for Thursday night. Prediction: Braga 1-1 Monaco

Rangers v Red Star Belgrade, Thursday 8pm

Rangers upset the odds when they beat the favorite for the competition, Borussia Dortmund, 6-4 on aggregate in their play-off clash. The Scottish champions have lost only eleven in 2022, a 3-0 defeat at Celtic, and that is their sole loss in their past 23 matches in all competitions. However, Red Star are also in great form. They are on a 14-match unbeaten streak and have won six on the trot.

These two sides have some history. They met in the European Cup in the 1964-65 season. Rangers won the first leg 3-1 in Glasgow and Red Star won the second leg 4-2 in Belgrade. With no away goals in place to separate the teams, they had a play-off at Highbury, which Rangers won 3-1 after extra time.

In terms of team news, Ryan Jack started Rangers’ 1-0 win over Aberdeen on Saturday after a brief stint on the sidelines and is available. Aaron Ramsey and Filip Helander were fit enough for the bench at the weekend, so should be fine for Thursday night at Ibrox. However, Giovanni van Bronckhorst has concerns about Steven Davis and Amad Diallo, and Ianis Hagi remains absent following knee surgery.

The Red Star manager, Dejan Stankovic, must decide whether to go with the three-man defense he used in half of his team’s group games or revert to his more common 4-2-3-1 system. Aleksandar Katai scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Novi Pazar at the weekend, and has scored in each of his side’s past three matches, so he will be full of confidence in Glasgow. Prediction: Rangers 2-1 Red Star Belgrade

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