Check Out This Week’s Europa League Round of 16 First Leg Ties

By Ian John
March 7, 2023

There’s plenty of top class action to enjoy this week with The Players Championship starting in Jacksonville, Florida, the first set of Champions League Round of 16 second leg ties plus the Premier League of Darts continuing on Thursday night.

And speaking of Thursday night, there is also the Round of 16 First Leg ties set to be played in the Europa League.

The second-tier tournament in Europe behind the Champions League, has looked a lot more appealing since the format was revamped a couple of years ago and this is now a quality tournament with a number of top teams competing in it this year.

So with that in mind, we’ve decided to take a look at the eight Round of 16 first leg ties set to be played in this tournament on Thursday night.

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So who are the 16 teams remaining in this tournament and what can we expect from each of the games? Let’s take a broad look at all eight matches in this competition this week, with the return legs set to be played a week later.

Europa League Round of 16 – 1st Leg Ties

Thursday 9th March – 5.45pm Kick Off

Bayer Leverkusen v Ferencvaros

This a game where context plays more of an important role than stats for me. In terms of stats, Ferencvaros have the edge, they top their domestic league comfortably, topped their Europa League group, while Leverkusen only just scraped through the playoff after dropping out of the Champions League.

That said, Leveerkusen play at a much higher level week in, week out compared to their Hungarian opponents and as such, I think that they have the extra quality they need to get a win here.

Player To Watch – Florian Wirtz (Leverkusen)

The 19-year-old has been a star for Leverkusen this season in an advanced midfield role scoring two goals plus one assist in his two appearances in the competition thus far.

Game Tip – Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 Ferencvaros – 10/1 at bet365

AS Roma v Real Sociedad

Jose Mourinho has enjoyed success in this competition previously, most recently with Manchester United, and he will no doubt have his eyes set on a strong showing here, especially with a Champions League qualification spot available for the winner of the tournament.

Sociedad though showed that they are not a pushover in this tournament by beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in the group stages. They are not going to make this easy for the home side and I think Roma may have a very slight edge going into the second leg next week.

Player To Watch – Paulo Dybala (AS Roma)

The Free Agent signing from Juventus has hit 3 goals in 5 Europa League games as well as 8 in 18 in Serie A. A technically gifted striker with great touch and control as well as a good scoring record this season.

Game Tip –AS Roma 2-1 Real Sociedad – 17/2 at bet365

Sporting Lisbon v Arsenal

Sporting Lisbon have not scored a goal against Arsenal in the four games they have played against them, although they have picked up two 0-0 draws in that time. That said, they head into this game in good form, even though they are some way off the pace being set in the Portuguese League.

Arsenal have been in great form of late and a last gasp win at the weekend over Bournemouth sets them up nicely for this game. They lie 5 points clear in the Premier League and for me, they are one of the favourites to win this competition this season and I’d expect them to show exactly why in this tricky away tie.

Player To Watch – Bukayo Saka (Arsenal)

Saka has scored 10 goals in 26 EPL games this season as well as another in the Europa League. A fantastic winger, who creates as well as scores goals, he is a key figure for Arteta’s Arsenal team.

Game Tip – Sporting Lisbon 0-2 Arsenal – 9/1 at bet365

Union Berlin v Union Saint Gilloise

Perhaps two of the less well-known names on this list, both these teams have got past some more illustrious names to reach this far in the tournament. Berlin were very impressive in knocking out Ajax in the last round and they will start this game as the favourites despite not having too many star names in their squad.

You can say the same for the Belgian side for whom Victor Boniface has scored three goals in the Europa League thus far, in six games. They are a strong and well-organised unit but I think that they may struggle a little in Germany in the first leg.

Player To Watch – Josip Juranovic (Union Berlin)

Signed from Celtic after a superb World Cup performance, Juranovic has become an excellent right back and has already integrated himself very well at his new team.

Game Tip – Union Berlin 2-0 Union Saint Gilloise – 11/2 at bet365

Thursday 9th March – 8.00pm Kick Off

Juventus v SC Freiburg

Juventus produced a much better second leg away performance against Nantes in the last round to move comfortably into the Round of 16. They are also in good form in Serie A at the moment, although they are still well off the pace being set by Napoli at the top of the table.

Freiburg have been one of the more consistent sides in Germany over the last couple of years but they have suffered a couple of heavy defeats in recent times against top sides in the Bundesliga and I think that they are going to do well to keep a check on Juventus here so they have something to play for in the second leg.

Player To Watch – Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus)

Very talented young Serbian striker, who has netted 8 goals in 16 games in Serie A, as well as scoring for Juventus against Nantes in the playoff stage of this competition.

Game Tip – Juventus 1-0 SC Freiburg – 5/1 at bet365

Manchester United v Real Betis

After suffering a 7-0 thrashing at rivals Liverpool at the weekend, Manchester United come into this game badly needing to put right the damage done in that game. Confidence will have been hit and there is no doubt a team like Betis could make this a very tricky evening for the Red Devils.

The Spanish side have been scoring lots of goals in recent games, but also letting in a few goals too and I think this is a game where we will see both teams score. That said, I think with home advantage on their side, it may be the English team taking a narrow lead into the second leg next week.

Player To Watch – Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

Rashford is back to his best this season scoring 26 goals in all competitions including four in six Europa League ties. His pace makes him a threat against any side and with his confidence back, he looks a formidable striker once again.

Game Tip – Manchester United 2-1 Real Betis – 15/2 at bet365

Sevilla v Fenerbahce

Sevilla are the most successful team in Europa League history and they will fancy their chances of reaching the quarterfinals here against the Turkish side Fenerbahce, who have been one of the more inconsistent sides remaining in this stage of the competition.

The Turkish side have some talent in their ranks but they have often come unstuck against opponents just like Sevilla and I would be surprised if the home side don’t set themselves up for a comfortable second leg with a decent win on home soil here.

Player To Watch – Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla)

Aged 34, Rakitic remains the driving creative force in the Sevilla midfield where he oozes quality especially in European competition.

Game Tip – Sevilla 2-0 Fenerbahce – 7/1 at bet365

Shakhtar Donetsk v Feyenoord

What Shakhtar Donetsk are achieving in European football given what is going on in their homeland of Ukraine, is incredible. But now they face up to life after the sale of their star man Mikhailo Mudryk who moved to Chelsea for £80m in the transfer window.

They face a tricky opponent in Eredivisie league leaders Feyenoord, who have also been going well in Europe this season. I am not quite convinced that the Dutch side have enough quality to win this game as Donetsk have proven tough opponents for anybody, but a draw is very much on the cards.

Player To Watch – Santiago Gimenez (Feyenoord)

The Argentinean striker has 6 goals in the Eredivisie from 22 games but has been a much greater threat in the Europa League scoring four in just six games for the Dutch side.

Game Tip – Shakhtar Donetsk 1-1 Feyenoord – 11/2 at bet365

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