Europa League football can slip under the radar from time to time but that should not be the case. Europe's secondary competition was brilliant last week, thanks to some great matchups and several of Europe’s biggest sides appearing.
The second legs are, in some places, delicately poised ahead of Thursday night. So let's take a look at some of those second legs in this piece…
Atalanta vs Borussia Dortmund
The last-gasp 3-2 victory at home for Borussia Dortmund puts this tie in the balance. That match was the tie of the round as Michy Batshuayi starred again. Leaving the hostile Dortmund atmosphere, though, Atalanta are far from out of this with two away goals to their name.
The hosts’ 1-1 draw with Fiorentina at the weekend is hardly the perfect springboard coming into this clash. Despite dominating possession, chances were almost non-existent for Atalanta. While Dortmund won away at Monchengladbach, their performance was equally underwhelming. Perhaps that’s just the Europa League impact.
I think this is once again the match to watch. A narrow home win should secure progression for the Italian club, while Dortmund’s defensive issues mean we are unlikely to see them sit deep and try to avoid defeat.
TIP: Over 2.5 goals @ 8/15
Villarreal vs Lyon
Memphis Depay put Lyon in control of this tie with his late goal to make it 3-1 in France. Villarreal still have a fighting chance of progression if they can tighten things up defensively, but they have not kept a clean sheet in over a month.
Three La Liga matches without a win have put The Yellow Submarine down to sixth. Form at home in the Europa League is not good either. Lyon, though, are on a poor run themselves – they have one point from 12 available in Ligue 1 – and have been leaking goals on the road.
At 2/11 to progress, there’s little value in backing Lyon to simply make it through. I think the circumstances will force both teams to attack, however, which may see a very high-scoring encounter.
TIP: Over 2.5 goals @ 3/5
Zenit St. Petersburg vs Celtic
Zenit are on the back foot after losing 1-0 in Scotland. Callum McGregor’s late goal puts Brendan Rodgers’ side at 8/13 to progress to the next round despite their poor record away from Celtic Park in European competition.
The hosts have won eight of 10 at home in this competition and did not have the extra challenge of league action at the weekend thanks to the Russian Premier League’s winter break. Goals are a necessity, but they have proven they have the firepower to blow sides away, particularly at home. Celtic's best bet may be to try and defend their slender lead...
They are the joint second-top scorers in the Europa League and have Emiliano Rigoni and Aleksandr Kokorin with five and six goals in the competition respectively. I fancy Zenit (3/5) to win on the night. It’ll be a close call whether it’s good enough to make it into the next round.
TIP: Zenit to win @ 3/5
Lokomotiv Moscow vs Nice
Nice looked to be cruising when they went 2-0 up in the first half-an-hour in the first leg. A red card for Racine Coly and three Lokomotiv Moscow goals have left the club from the south coast of France with a monumental task to qualify.
Lucien Favre must have been half-expecting the second half collapse from his side. Their recent form is awful, with just two Ligue 1 wins in 2018. Pair that with Lokomotiv’s seven-match winning streak and things are looking pretty bleak for the visitors in this contest.
Despite all the talent in this Nice side, I just cannot see them making the next round. It is too big an ask, even with their exciting front three. It’s worth backing them to find the net, but pulling off a turnaround will be a step too far.
TIP: Both teams to score @ 7/10
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*