Europa League 2021: Preview and Predictions for the Semifinals

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 29, 2021

Europa League 2021: Preview and Predictions for the Semifinals

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    The UEFA Europa League is down to Manchester United, Arsenal, Villarreal and Roma.

    Manchester United and Arsenal may be the bigger names on paper, but that does not mean they will easily go through to the title match.

    The English Premier League clubs have some fitness issues up top, with United's Marcus Rashford dealing with a foot injury and the Gunners' Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang recovering from malaria. Fortunately, both will be available for selection on Thursday.

    Roma carries plenty of experience through its squad and could cause problems to a Manchester United back line that has conceded only once during the knockout round.

    Arsenal could face some difficulty with Villarreal since the Spanish side's manager, Unai Emery, knows what it takes to reach the Europa League final. Emery last achieved the feat with Arsenal in 2019.

    Manchester United and Villarreal are at home for the first legs, while Arsenal and Roma will host the return legs on May 6.


    This article was produced in partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Manchester United vs. Roma

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    Of the clubs remaining in the Europa League, Manchester United enters the semifinals in the most stable run of form. 

    The Red Devils have a single loss across all competitions since Jan. 30, an FA Cup quarterfinal defeat at the hands of Leicester City.

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men have been near perfect defensively since falling down to the Europa League after a third-place finish in their Champions League group.

    Manchester United held Real Sociedad and Granada scoreless over two legs and limited AC Milan to a single tally in 180 minutes.

    Since the start of February, the Red Devils have conceded more than two goals on just two occasions across 20 games in all competitions. Leicester and Everton were the only opponents to achieve that feat.

    If the Victor Lindelof-Harry Maguire pairing contains Roma's top attacking threats, United could have a comfortable path to the final.

    Roma has four double-digit scorers across all competitions in its squad. Leading scorer Borja Mayoral netted four goals in the knockout round.

    Where Roma should be concerned is in defense, as it has carded a single clean sheet over its last 10 matches in all competitions. Braga and Shakhtar Donetsk scored a goal each in the second legs of their knockout-round matchups with Roma, and Ajax scored in both quarterfinal legs.

    Rashford played 85 minutes Sunday against Leeds United despite dealing with a foot injury, and Solskjaer said the striker is healthy enough to play against Roma. Even with Rashford, however, United may struggle to get over the mental hurdle of a semifinal.

    United has lost four semifinal matches, two Carabao Cup, one FA Cup and one in the Europa League, during Solskjaer's reign. But given the team's current defensive form, the next two weeks may give it the best chance to advance.

    Prediction: Manchester United

Villarreal vs. Arsenal

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    To get to its second Europa League final in three years, Arsenal needs to beat the team coached by the manager that led it there in 2019.

    Villarreal manager Unai Emery won the Europa League on three occasions with Sevilla and took Arsenal to the final prior to his November 2019 departure.

    The Yellow Submarine went a perfect 6-for-6 in knockout-round games and conceded on two occasions in 450 minutes.

    That form has not translated to league play, where Villarreal has three losses in its last four games, including a weekend defeat to Barcelona.

    Villarreal's defense could draw an assignment against Aubameyang, who is recovering from malaria that he contracted while on international duty with Gabon.

    The Gunners have scored in four of their last five games across all competitions, and they put four past Slavia Prague to secure advancement to the final four.

    In that same stretch, Arsenal has not allowed multiple goals to any opponent, while Villarreal's last clean sheet occurred on April 8.

    While you can make a case that Villarreal is a different team on the continental level, it has not been as consistent as it needs to be lately to deal with a top-class opponent like Arsenal, which needs to win the Europa League to get back into the Champions League.

    Prediction: Arsenal


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    Statistics obtained from