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The second-most prominent club competition in Europe, the UEFA Europa League, has started taking shape. After three Matchdays, all teams know what they must to do improve their fortunes, and it’d certainly be interesting to see how the fixtures play out.
Today, in this piece, we’ll focus on the upcoming Matchday of the UEFA Europa League and give you our top 5 picks of the week.
#5 Molde vs Arsenal
From being dubbed as the ‘Invincibles’ to fighting tooth and nails in the Europa League — Arsenal haven’t had the best run of form lately. Mikel Arteta is doing his best to turn it around, of course, but it’s not likely to be a straightforward job. His team is currently 12th in the league and are gearing up for an uphill climb.
In the Europa League, they are in much better shape. They have maintained a perfect record so far — after three matches — and would fancy getting their fourth win on the trot at Molde. Their last meeting ended in a 4-1 win for the Gunners at the Emirates.
#4 Sparta Prague vs Celtic
While Rangers are gunning for the pole position of their group, their bitter rivals, Celtic are still searching for their first win of the Europa League campaign. After opening their campaign with a defeat against AC Milan, Celtic somehow held league leaders, Lille, to a draw.
On the third Matchday, just as fans were gearing up to celebrate their first win, Celtic were embarrassed at home, succumbing to a 1-4 defeat.
Sparta, too, aren’t in the best of shapes and have only one win under their belt. However, that big at Celtic is bound to give their confidence a healthy boost, as they gear up to do the double over the Scottish Premiership club. It might not be a straightforward affair, but Sparta won’t look to settle for anything less than all three points in their backyard.
#3 SC Braga vs Leicester City
Premier League club, Leicester City, came out on top when the two met in the reverse fixture just before the international break. At home, the Foxes put on a show against the Portuguese club, picking up a massive 4-0 win. This week, they’d look to reach similar heights at a tricky venue.
Braga, on the other hand, would look to take inspiration from Liverpool’s massive win over the 2015/16 Premier League winners on Sunday. Even against a largely depleted Reds team, Leicester failed to play a respectable brand of football, and Braga would love to land a blow where it hurts, in their own backyard.
#4 Lille vs AC Milan
In France, Paris Saint-Germain have once again started to reign supreme. They already have a significant lead over second-placed Lille and look determined to carry it through to the business end of the season.
Lille may not be as influential in the country, but they’ve done quite well for themselves in Europe. They picked up a big 3-0 win over Milan in the last round, putting pressure on the Rosonneri for the return leg.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s AC Milan have been very impressive in Serie A this season and look on course for a Champions League spot. Sadly, they couldn’t carry their impressive form to the second most popular European competition, before the international break, and succumbed to a disappointing defeat.
Away from home, it would be an even bigger challenge, but it’s almost criminal to write off this excellent Milan side just yet.
#1 Rangers vs Benfica
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers FC are enjoying an undeniable purple patch right now. They have carved out a massive 11-point lead at the top of the table — albeit playing a couple of games more than Celtic — and look set to survive their Europa League group. However, to come out on top in Europe, they’ll need to tame a rather stubborn Benfica side.
In the previous round, the top two teams of the group played out an enthralling 3-3 draw at Estadio da Luz. Despite having a 3-1 lead, Rangers failed to secure maximum points against 10-man Benfica. This Thursday, they’ll need to show more resilience and make the visitors work for every single ball.
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