All to play for in Europa League quarterfinals

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Barcelona players celebrate

Three of the ties are still level and the other one is far from over; can the likes of Barcelona, Rangers and West Ham reach the Uefa Europa League semifinals?

The ties between Barcelona and Frankfurt, Lyon and West Ham, and Atalanta and Leipzig are still level ahead of the Uefa Europa League quarterfinal second legs, while the lead Braga are taking to Rangers is a fragile one.


Transformed since the arrival of Xavi Hernández, Barcelona may have just a slim chance of denying Real Madrid the Spanish title, but a first-ever Uefa Europa League/Uefa Cup title remains within their grasp. They did not get an easy ride in the first leg against Frankfurt, but the Bundesliga side will expect no mercy at Camp Nou. As Barca’s German goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen put it, “For the return leg, we know exactly what to do.”

Oliver Glasner’s team are no pushovers, though; they are unbeaten away from home in Europe this season (W3 D1), scoring at least once in each of those games. They managed to hold Barcelona despite playing the last 12 minutes of the first leg with 10 men following Tuta’s dismissal and have no need to be cowed as they head for Spain. “Everyone could see we can compete with them,” said first-leg goalscorer Ansgar Knauff.

A 1-1 draw in London looks like a good result on paper, but Lyon returned to France with some regrets, having failed to establish a lead despite being up against 10 men for the whole of the second half. “If you play against 10, normally you should win,” conceded coach Peter Bosz, but – well off the pace in Ligue 1 – Lyon will throw everything at West Ham in the return encounter.

Left-back Aaron Cresswell’s dismissal robs the Hammers of a key man for the decider, but while they showed admirable spirit in adversity, manager David Moyes was unimpressed by his side when they had 11 men. Goalscorer Jarrod Bowen expects a more fluent performance in France, saying: “We weren’t at our best but created chances. We will step up another level and we will be dangerous.”


“It’s a one-goal difference,” shrugged Giovanni van Bronckhorst after his team’s narrow defeat in Portugal. “[In the second leg, we are] at home, with the ground behind us. We have to win by a margin of two to go to the semifinals; we know what the task is ahead of us.” It looks simple on paper, but with striker Alfredo Morelos out for the rest of the season, the Light Blues need to find a cutting edge.

Carlos Carvalhal’s youthful Braga side were inches away from coming to Scotland with a 2-0 lead, Ricardo Horta having hit the post. They do not scare easily, and will be mindful that Rangers are still shaky following a 2-1 home loss to Glasgow rivals Celtic at the start of the month. The last time the Arsenalistas came to Ibrox, they went 2-0 up only to lose 3-2, and they may be inclined to go for broke again this time. Goalscorer Abel Ruiz said: “1-0 is not a great advantage, but we will go there to win.”


The first leg between Atalanta and Leipzig was deranged; both sides hit the woodwork twice, Leipzig had a penalty saved, and while it ended 1-1, it could easily have been 3-3, 4-4 or 5-5. “We had more chances and we’re disappointed because we had the feeling we could win it,” said rueful Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini. “It starts again from 1-1.”

Atalanta succeeded in cutting Leipzig’s supply lines for much of the encounter, and will look to seize control of the game in the second leg, though their guests may have similar ideas. “We cannot just play on the counterattack,” said Italian-born boss Domenico Tedesco. Forward Emil Forsberg added: “It’s all to play for in Bergamo and we feel like we have the quality to get the result we need.”

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