Chris Smalling.

The state of play in the Europa League

Wednesday 07 April 2021 11:14

Eight teams are vying to win the UEFA Europa League trophy as the quarter-finals get under way this Thursday.

Of course, Manchester United are away to Granada in our first-leg tie with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men striving to take a positive result back to Old Trafford for next week's return fixture.

The reward for the victors has already been determined with Ajax or Roma lying in wait in the semi-finals.

United defeated Ajax 2-0 in the 2017 Europa League final in Stockholm.

Dutch giants Ajax, our opponents when we lifted the trophy in 2017, are at home in the first leg to Serie A side Roma. The Italians' squad includes former Reds Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, with the latter scoring in the aforementioned final, and Borja Mayoral is the joint-leading scorer in the competition.

Roma cruised past Shakhtar Donetsk 5-1 on aggregate in the previous round while Ajax were even more comfortable against Young Boys (5-0 on aggregate).

Ajax have won 10 home games on the trot in the Europa League, while Paulo Fonseca's side are Italy's sole European representatives at this stage.

The other half of the draw includes Premier League side Arsenal. The Gunners edged past Olympiacos, despite losing the second leg 1-0 at home, to set up the two-legged meeting with Slavia Prague.

Arsenal beat Slavia 7-0 at home in the Champions League, back in 2007, and Mikel Arteta's side will view this competition as a great chance to return to Europe's top competition in 2021/22 with a top-four spot domestically looking unlikely as the north Londoners are currently only 10th in the division, 10 points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham United.

The Gunners reached the final in 2019, only to suffer a heavy 4-1 defeat to capital rivals Chelsea in Baku.

Arsenal have progressed to this stage of the Europa League.

Czech outfit Slavia have shown they should not be under-estimated after knocking Leicester City and Rangers out of the tournament this season.

Jindrich Trpisovsky's team will hope to show the same form that earned 2-0 away wins at the King Power Stadium and Ibrox when appearing at the Emirates Stadium in the first leg.

Dinamo Zagreb celebrate knocking Spurs out of the competition.

Dinamo Zagreb and Villarreal meet in the fourth quarter-final, with the opening game taking place in Croatia.

Dinamo's stunning comeback knocked Tottenham Hotspur out in the previous round, with Mislav Orsic bagging a hat-trick in a shock 3-0 second-leg success. Their reward is to face Villarreal, who beat Granada 3-0 in La Liga over the weekend.

Unai Emery, in charge of the Yellow Submarine, knows that victory in the tie could set up an intriguing last-four meeting with his former club Arsenal.

All eight clubs are hoping to be involved in the final, which takes place in Gdansk, in Poland, on 26 May.


Granada v UNITED
Ajax v Roma
Arsenal v Slavia Prague
Dinamo Zagreb v Villarreal

All games kick-off at 20:00 BST and are live in the UK on BT Sport.