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Europa League: Arsenal and Manchester Utd facing tricky last-16 ties

The Europa League last-16 stage begins on Thursday and there are plenty of intriguing first-leg games, including tough tests for both Arsenal and Manchester United.

The continent's second-tier competition sees a host of big names hoping to progress to the last eight, when the possibility of lifting a European trophy begins to come into view.

United hoping for home comforts

WhatManchester United v Real Betis
WhereOld Trafford, Manchester
When20:00, Thursday 9th March
How to watchBT Sport 1
OddsMan Utd 2/5, Draw 15/4, Real Betis 15/2

Manchester United's resurgence under Erik ten Hag suffered a spectacular setback at Anfield on Sunday when they were thumped 7-0 by rivals Liverpool in the Premier League.

United's hectic schedule means they have not had long to wait to get that drubbing out of their system and they are 2/5 to win the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie against visitors Real Betis.

Ten Hag's men have already won the EFL Cup and reached the FA Cup quarter-finals and they beat Barcelona 4-3 on aggregate in a heavyweight Europa League play-off tie last month.

United's last five European campaigns have ended with defeats to Spanish opponents, however, so they will be taking nothing for granted against a talented Betis side who lie fifth in La Liga and who held Real Madrid to a 0-0 draw last weekend.

Betis' fixtures are usually more entertaining than that stalemate and backing both teams to score at 19/20 is well worth considering.

Their previous five league games had all rewarded backers of both teams to score, featuring a total of 23 goals, as did their two group stage games against Roma.

Influential Betis forward Sergio Canales is back from injury, while United have won 16 of their last 17 matches at Old Trafford in all competitions, but they have kept only two clean sheets in their last eight, against Premier League strugglers Nottingham Forest and Leicester City.

Gunners set for tight first leg in Lisbon

WhatSporting v Arsenal
WhereEstadio Jose Alvalade, Lisbon
When17:45, Thursday 9th March
How to watchBT Sport 2
OddsSporting 13/5, Draw 12/5, Arsenal 11/10

Premier League leaders Arsenal are one of the favourites to win the Europa League, along with English rivals United, but the Gunners face a tricky first leg against Sporting in Lisbon.

They are short of attacking options, as Gabriel Jesus and Leandro Trossard are out and Eddie Nketiah is doubtful with an ankle problem, so a cagey contest looks likely against the Portuguese giants.

Sporting took four points off Tottenham in this season's Champions League group stage, winning 2-0 at home thanks to two late goals, before a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture.

They have won their last three matches to nil and are 5/1 to continue that run with a victory and a clean sheet against Arsenal, who have been full of goals in the Premier League but less so in Europe.

Mikel Arteta's men won five of their six Europa League group games, but their last three victories - against Bodo/Glimt, PSV Eindhoven and FC Zurich - were all by 1-0 scorelines.

Arsenal's last Premier League away fixture at Leicester also ended in a 1-0 win and that outcome can be backed at 6/1 in the Correct Score betting.

Jose after more European silverware

WhatRoma v Real Sociedad
WhereStadio Olimpico, Rome
When17:45, Thursday 9th March
How to watchBT Sport 4
OddsRoma 11/10, Draw 21/10, Sociedad 11/4

With Jose Mourinho at the helm, Roma are obviously a team to be feared in Europe as the Portuguese coach aims to land the Europa League this season after lifting the Europa Conference League with the capital club in 2022.

In one of the stand-out ties on Thursday, the Italian giants take on La Liga's Real Sociedad, with both teams sitting fourth in their respective domestic leagues.

Roma come into the tie on the back of a 1-0 home win over Juventus at the weekend and, overall, are in solid form, winning four of their last seven matches in all competitions.

They got past RB Salzburg 2-1 on aggregate in the previous knock-out play-off round, while Sociedad impressively finished top of Group E - ahead of Manchester United - with five wins from six.

Imanol Alguacil's side won all three of their away games without conceding a goal, so will approach the trip to the Stadio Olimpico with confidence as they seek another result to enable them to continue their Europa quest.

Juve face German test

WhatJuventus v Freiburg
WhereAllianz Stadium, Turin
When20:00, Thursday 9th March
How to watchBT Sport 4
OddsJuventus 13/20, Draw 14/5, Freiburg 9/2

Juventus are another Italian giant aiming to pick up the Europa League trophy this season, but they too face a tricky last-16 test against Freiburg, who are enjoying a good campaign in the Bundesliga.

Juve are off the pace in seventh in Serie A, but had won three games on the spin before going down to Roma at the weekend.

They will still be confident of getting a first-leg win in this encounter, although Freiburg will be no pushovers.

The German outfit are fifth domestically and they are unbeaten in their last five games, although they have stuttered very recently, drawing their last two matches 1-1 with Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach.

Juve finished a disappointing third in their Champions League group before convincingly beating French side Nantes 4-1 on aggregate to set up this tie.

Freiburg finished top of their Europa League group, winning four of their six games to get this far, and will definitely pose a threat in this game after scoring 13 goals while conceding just three in the competition to date.

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Sevilla hope Europe saves their season

WhatSevilla v Fenerbahce
WhereEstadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla
When20:00, Thursday 9th March
How to watchBT Sport 2
OddsSevilla 3/4, Draw 14/5, Fenerbahce 7/2

Struggling La Liga side Sevilla at home to Turkish giants Fenerbahce is another of the attractive last-16 ties, with the Spaniards 3/4 to win in Full Time Result, despite their league woes.

Sevilla are in the relegation scrap in La Liga - they are just a place above the bottom three - as their dismal form continues. They were hammered 6-1 by Atletico Madrid last time out and have just one win in their last five matches overall.

That was in this competition, which has proven to be a welcome distraction this term, as they convincingly beat PSV Eindhoven 3-0 to overturn a 2-0 first leg in the previous round to progress.

That result probably explains why they are favourites to edge the first leg against a Fener side that are second in the Super Lig, six points behind rivals Galatasaray.

However, it would not be too much of a stretch to see the visitors deepening Sevilla's gloom by picking up a valuable first-leg away win, available in Full Time Result at 7/2.

Union eye progress in fine season so far

Of the rest of the games, Bundesliga surprise package Union Berlin, who are third in their home division, entertain Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise, who are second domestically, with the German outfit on offer at 8/13 to win in Full Time Result.

There's a German-Hungarian showdown between Bayer Leverkusen and Ferencvaros, with the hosts big favourites at 3/10 to win the first leg, while Ukrainians Shakhtar Donetsk are at "home" to Dutch side Feyenoord, with an "away" win in Warsaw available at 13/10.

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