Match to watch – Man Utd – AC Milan
It feels more like a Champions League clash than three of the four main event draws this week and this Europa League first meeting between England and Italy’s second teams could be a treat on Thursday night.
One team’s all-time lead Ole Gunnar Solskjaer battles the Rossoneri after ending their derby rivals’ unbeaten streak with a well deserved 2-0 victory at Etihad. Few saw it coming, especially following the turgid fare served by the Red Devils in the three scoreless games before the derby.
With the Premier League title out of reach, the Europa League takes on increased significance for Solskjaer as he sets out in search of his first silverware as United manager. The Norwegian says United have ‘an unfinished business’ following last season’s disappointment in the semi-finals – the fourth time Solskjaer has made it to the semi-finals and has eaten it up.
For Milan, their priority remains the race for the Scudetto. They stopped their recent rope form to sink Hellas Verona 2-0 this weekend, a victory all the more impressive as Stefano Pioli was without half of his regular starters.
One of them is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But hope remains to see the former United striker face off Harry maguireIbra is hoping to return from a thigh injury at Old Trafford. If he fails to recover for the first leg, Zlatan is expected to be back for the second leg at Milan next week.
Pioli is also expected to have Sandro Tonali, Theo Hernandez and Ante Rebic available for the trip to Manchester, while Ismael Bennacer, Mario Mandzukic and Hakan Calhanoglu have a few days to prove their fitness.
Zlatan, of course, isn’t the only familiar face United could meet on Thursday. United on loan Diogo Dalot is eligible to face his parent club and the Portuguese, once considered Europe’s best young right-back by Jose Mourinho, is bursting with confidence after scoring that debut league goal. at week-end…
Diogo Dalot’s goal for AC Milan today! Town crier 🤩 [@2sporten] #MUFC #UR pic.twitter.com/1oCsSlMS3Z
– United Reveal (@UnitedReveal) March 7, 2021
Team to watch – Liverpool
Liverpool are playing right now as a team that needs a two-goal lead, which luckily is what they take with them when they return to Budapest for the second leg of their Champions League second leg with the RB Leipzig.
The dwarf mentality are dwindling with each passing week, with the loss to Fulham representing their sixth straight loss in the home league. Jurgen Klopp will therefore be delighted to get away from Anfield and call Puskas Arena “ home ” for a night.
There they already beat Julian Nagelsmann’s men three weeks ago, although it was not lost on RB Leipzig coach that his team offered the victory to the Reds with a few mistakes which were punished by Mo Salah and Sadio Mane with the kind of cruelty that has since abandoned them.
“A lot of people were waiting for us to slip again and tonight we didn’t,” Klopp said after the first leg win, though the unbelievers didn’t have to hang around for long. Liverpool have lost their next three home games by failing to score.
Maybe because he has already exhausted his reserves of excuses, Klopp will have none if Liverpool fall to another new low on Wednesday night. The beleaguered boss made seven changes to his XI for Fulham’s defeat with Leipzig in mind, despite previously claiming he would not prioritize the Champions League. But Klopp can hardly be faulted for focusing on the one facet of life that currently offers Liverpool joy.
Away from the Premier League, away from Anfield, one step ahead – this must mark a turning point in Liverpool’s season.
Where Liverpool rank among the bad Premier League champions
Player to watch – Lionel Messi
It’s a big week for the Barcelona superstar. Messi created both goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Osasuna before voting the next day in Barca’s presidential elections, which he did more than most to provoke with his criticism of Josep Bartomeu when he tried to leave the club last summer. With president Joan Laporta once again and Barca’s leadership a little clearer, attention is now turning to Messi and whether he wants to participate.
The first indication will come this week when Messi travels to Paris to face the team best placed to take him from Barca. The scrutiny of the Argentine genius will be intense, especially as Barca pursue a 4-1 deficit from the first leg when Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG completely outclassed their hosts.
Barca have shown all the resilience of soggy papier-mâché in recent years, as things get tough in the Champions League and Ronald Koeman’s side look to their talisman to set the tone against the squad he could. well join this summer.
Another fight to flatten PSG seems beyond this Barca side, but the onus is on the Catalans to at least offer the illusion of a fight. Messi, in good shape with 25 goals in 26 games this season, also has a point to prove after being horribly shown by Kylian Mbappe at Camp Nou.
Manager to watch – Mikel Arteta
“Obviously we know Thursday is a huge game for us,” Arteta said after Granit Xhaka scored two points in Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at Burnley. And the Gunners boss thought so – the Europa League has become Arsenal’s biggest priority this season.
Failing to beat Burnley left Arteta’s side 12 points off the top four, with little hope they might have of making a late draw for a Champions League spot – generated by their impressive recent form – s’ is actually completed at Turf Moor.
So towards the Europa League, they have to become a path to next season’s Champions League, or even European football in any form. Which presents Arteta with a dilemma.
Between relations with Olympiakos next week, Arsenal will face Tottenham in the North London derby, with another momentous affair with West Ham after the return leg. There was no suggestion from his Burnley roster that the Premier League had been written off as an avenue to Europe, but the result could change his thinking ahead of a huge week with tests against their biggest rivals and l team that eliminated them. from Europe last season.
16 Conclusions: Manchester City 0-2 Manchester United
Premier League game to watch – Manchester City v Southampton
Sky Sports ‘attempt to distract you from all the wonderful European football going on this week centers on a resentful Ligue 1 game and, on Wednesday, the Saints’ trip to the leaders.
The two sides enter the 6pm meeting after reversing their recent form. City were going through a winning streak of 21 games before coming back to Solskjaer and United again. Pep Guardiola played it cool after the game, but his restlessness was evident as City continued to find themselves at a standstill as United saw their victory with relative ease. An immediate return to victory would mean that derby defeat wouldn’t be an issue in City’s bigger season schedule. But the saints also come to the Etihad in a different state of mind …
Their mood was finally upped with a 2-0 win over Sheffield United on Saturday, their first win in 10 games. Just one point over the previous 27 offered to them caused the Saints to look nervously over their shoulders towards the drop zone, but the win at Bramall Lane eases any fears that may have started to creep in.
It was achieved thanks to a sublime goal from Che Adams, who will likely replace injured Danny Ings at the Etihad, and a penalty won by rookie Nathan Tella. The former Arsenal youngster was only making his second Premier League start and he certainly did enough to keep his place and test themselves against the fleeing league leaders.
Football match to watch – Portsmouth v Sunderland
Saturday was a good day for the Saints fans. As they savored the victory for the first time since January 4, Pompey’s own downfall took an even sharper plunge with a 4-1 defeat at Northampton.
Kenny Jackett’s men were 4-0 at halftime against a side that started the day in the League 1 relegation zone. Jackett was already under pressure before the Sixfields surrender, with a victory in six leaving Pompey hanging on a place for the dams.
Sunderland is in a rather more chipper mood. With a new owner, they’ve won five of their last six games to sit comfortably in fourth before heading to Fratton Park for what has turned into something of a grudge game in recent seasons. Familiarity, in the play-offs and the EFL Trophy, has certainly engendered contempt and for the hosts this is a must-see before they return to Wembley on Saturday for last year’s Papa John’s Trophy – a title Sunderland could take them inside. 24 hours.