Europa League shocks and an English pox

Eight Europa League Shocks

With the second-leg of the Europa League’s Round of 32 fast approaching, many neutrals will be slavering at the bit to see a titan fall. Their club’s own shortcomings already well-acknowledged, Arsenal fans (in particular) will be keeping one eye on events at Wembley on Thursday.

Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side fell to a 1-0 defeat at Gent in the first-leg of this round. The absence of an away goal is particularly alarming, but Tottenham should still overturn the deficit.

A bit more of this would go down nicely on Thursday.

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With Southampton already eliminated, the demise of Tottenham would be a real blow to English representation in the 2016/17 Europa League. It would also, surely, go down as one of the biggest Europa League shocks ever.

As for Manchester United, the Red Devils hold all the cards against St Etienne. They crushed the French side 3-0 at Old Trafford, and look certain to finish the job. However, as the first item of this gallery shows, even the mighty Manchester United have occasionally proven fallible on the European stage.

On Europa night, those who are partial to some schadenfreude against a favoured side may end up disappointed. The two biggest bookmakers’ favourites, Manchester United and Roma, remain in strong positions.

Opportunities for Europa League shocks are running thin. However, two seeded teams in particular look vulnerable ahead of Thursday.

Undoubtedly, the most resounding win of the first leg was Rostov’s 4-0 hammering of Group K winners Sparta Prague. The immovable heavyweights of Czech football were truly humbled by a club that has never before reached the knockout phase of Europe’s secondary club competition.

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Without an away goal to worry Rostov, Sparta Prague’s days in this year’s competition are surely numbered. Meanwhile, it looks only minimally better for 2008 UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg.

Despite boasting some exceptional talents and resources, Zenit proved no match for Anderlecht in the first-leg. Frank Acheampong’s brace saw the Paars-wit emerge 2-0 victors. Home or away, his pace and trickery will prove difficult for Zenit to handle, but there is still a modicum of hope for the Russian giants.

After all, Roy Hodgson motivated his Fulham side to overturn a two-goal deficit to Juventus and ultimately reach the final.

Who else could you possibly need in your corner when the chips are down…