Man United’s turn to shine in Europa
FOX is the new home of the Europa League beginning next season. This year, all of the matches can be seen live via DirecTV and GolTV. On game days, fans can also follow all the action via FoxSoccer.com and on Twitter @FoxSoccerTrax.
United are riding a comfortable two-goal cushion, and for all of Ajax’s young talent, old heads will expect that the Red Devils will get the job done at home. United didn’t really light the world on fire last time out in Amsterdam, but goals from Ashley Young and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez were enough to overcome a tenacious Ajax side that looks as if it could be very good down the road. Siem de Jong, Miralem Sulejmani, Dico Koppers and Jan Vertonghen all lived up to their billing, and it’s easy to see why they are all targets for bigger clubs.
Wayne Rooney will be absent for the game after coming down with a throat infection, but Tom Cleverley is expected to feature, as he has shaken off the ankle injury which forced him out of the first leg.
The winner will face an interesting test against either Lokomotiv Moscow or Athletic Bilbao. Lokomotiv fought back in the snow behind Felipe Caicedo, but with Athletic holding an away goal and enjoying their home confines, this is delicately poised. Teen striker Iker Muniain shone on the night and had given Athletic a deserved advantage with a superb goal, but the Bilbao side showed some fragility as the game wore on.
Sporting will be without American defender Oguchi Onyewu after he was ruled out for the next two months with a knee injury suffered on the weekend against Pacos de Ferreira. Onyewu has struggled with knee problems before and he has never fully recovered from a tendon tear suffered in 2009. But, the Libson giants collected two away goals after Andre Santos scored late to tie up the Poles in Warsaw, giving them a huge advantage.
In other games: Sacha Kljestan’s Anderlecht must rebound from their first loss in this tournament when they host Jozy Altidore’s AZ Alkmaar. AZ carries a 1-0 lead into the game thanks to young striker Adam Maher after a gritty battle in Holland. Altidore was a late sub in that match; he is expected to once again come off the bench. The winners face either Udinese or PAOK; their first leg was a goalless slog that left both teams with all to play for.
Steve Cherundolo’s Hannover carry a 2-1 win to Club Brugge. Maxime Lestienne had given Brugge the early lead and the away goal, but Hannover came all the way back. The winners face either Standard Liege or Wisla Krakow. That game was a 1-1 draw in Poland that gives Liege a slight edge.
Jermaine Jones and Schalke got a late draw against Plzen thanks to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and now are expected to ride that away goal into the next round. The winner there will face the winner of the Twente-Steaua pairing; the Dutch carry a 1-0 lead and the away goal.
Metalist and Atletico Madrid have probably already done enough, winning big on the road in their matches. Metalist pounded Red Bull Salzburg 4-0 and await either Olympiakos or Rubin Kazan. Olympiakos holds a 1-0 lead and an away goal. Atletico beat Lazio 3-1 in Rome and should face Besiktas, who won 2-0 at Braga ahead of the return leg in Turkey.
And finally, Stoke have it all to do in Valencia after dropping to a 1-0 loss at the Britannia. Should the Potters recover, they will face either PSV or Trabzonspor. PSV hold a 2-1 lead and will entertain the Turks in Eindhoven.