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Premier League teams look to conquer Europe

Similarly to the UEFA Champions League, this season’s Europa League could be braced for an all-British final. West Ham United and Glasgow Rangers are in semifinal action tonight as both teams eye the showpiece match in Seville next month.

The European football season approaches its climax and teams will be seeking one last push with lots at stake in the final weeks. While West Ham and Rangers are each strong candidates to advance beyond the Europa League semis, their respective opponents Eintracht Frankfurt and RB Leipzig should not be counted out so easily and an all-German final may also be on the cards.

West Ham vs Eintracht Frankfurt

Neither West Ham nor Frankfurt are in strong form currently. The former have collected one victory in their last five Premier League outings which included three defeats to fellow London opposition in Tottenham, Brentford and Chelsea. The Hammers topped Group H to progress straight to the Round of 16 where they overturned a first-leg deficit to eliminate four-time Europa League winners Sevilla. David Moyes’ men then saw off Lyon in the quarter-finals with an impressive 3-0 win in France.

Despite defeating FC Barcelona in the quarters, Frankfurt are winless in their last five Bundesliga matches. After drawing 1-1 with Barça in the home leg, Frankfurt earned a stunning 3-2 win at the Camp Nou to dump the Spanish giants out of Europe. Frankfurt previously made the UEL last-four in 2019 but lost out to eventual champions Chelsea on penalties. Now facing another London club in the form of West Ham, the German side look to make amends for their shortcomings three years back.

West Ham and Frankfurt have each scored 17 goals in 10 games in the Europa League, and “the hammers” have kept more clean sheets than any other club with six. No team has received more red cards than Frankfurt (2) and, on average, they have committed a competition-high 16,6 fouls per game.

RB Leipzig vs Rangers

RB Leipzig dropped down to the Europa League after ending 3rd in their Champions League group which contained the losing finalists in the last two years, Manchester City and Paris St-Germain. Leipzig beat Real Sociedad in the playoffs, before receiving a bye in the Round of 16 due to the expulsion of Russian side Spartak Moscow, and they later overcame Atalanta in the quarter-finals.
For Leipzig this is a second European semi in three years after they reached the last-four of the Champions League in 2020, in a losing effort to PSG. Leipzig have also made the final of the DFB-Pokal (German cup) in three of the last four seasons.

Rangers disposed of Borussia Dortmund in the last-16 playoffs before cruising past Red Star Belgrade and S.C Braga on their way to a first European semifinal since 2008, when the Scottish side made the final of the UEFA Cup (precursor to the Europa League).

No player has scored more goals than Rangers captain James Tavernier (6) in the Europa League this term and the club from Glasgow have scored the joint-most goals (19) albeit they have also conceded 13 goals in 12 games in this competition. Leipzig have registered an average seven shots on target per 90 minutes, whilst Rangers have struck the woodwork eight times in total.

In UEFA’s tertiary club competition, four teams are bidding to become the first-ever winners of the Europa Conference League. Thursday’s semifinal first-leg sees Leicester City welcome Roma meanwhile Feyenoord entertain Marseille.

Leicester City vs AS Roma

All eyes will be on this clash in the East Midlands which pits Leicester against Roma. Brendan Rodgers meets José Mourinho and the two have long-standing history after one of Rodgers’ earliest jobs in football management came at Chelsea, during Mourinho’s first spell in charge of the Blues. The Northern Irishman took charge of Chelsea’s under-18s for two years before being promoted to the club’s reserve team. In eight previous meetings, Rodgers has recorded a single victory over former mentor Mourinho.

Rodgers’ troops swept aside Danish outfit Randers, 7-2 on aggregate, in the Round of 16 playoffs before they beat out Stade Rennais in the Round of 16 with a 3-2 aggregate score. They defeated PSV Eindhoven in the quarter-finals and now standing between the Foxes and the Conference League final are Mourinho and his Giallorossi.
This is the furthest Leicester have progressed in Europe after they reached the Champions League quarters five years ago, one season after they were remarkably crowned champions of England in 2016.

Roma topped their UECL group before edging Vitesse in the Round of 16. Roma twice failed to beat Bodø/Glimt during the group stages but Mourinho’s men toppled their Norwegian opposition in the quarter-finals, 5-2 on aggregate.

Leicester have one win in their last five league games, whilst Roma took three victories from the same sample size. Tammy Abraham returns to his native England following a €40m switch to the Italian capital last summer, and the ex-Chelsea man has scored a joint-most eight goals in the Conference League.

Feyenoord vs Marseille

Feyenoord have not lost a game throughout the group and knockout phases of the inaugural edition of the Conference League, having topped their group with four wins and two draws. They dismantled Serbian outfit Partizan Belgrade, 8-3, in the Round of 16 and triumphed over Slavia Prague, 6-4, in the quarters. Going back 20 years this is the first time Feyenoord have progressed beyond the last-16 in a group-knockout tournament and in recent times they have fallen below Ajax and PSV in the Dutch Eredisivie, which has seen them celebrate just a solitary league title in the 21st century.

Marseille were demoted from the Europa League after finishing 3rd in their group behind Galatasaray and Lazio. The Phocaeans made light work of Qarabag (6-1 agg.)in the playoff round before overcoming FC Basel, 4-2 in the last-16. Domestically, Marseille are six points away from confirming a 2nd-placed finish which would ensure them of Champions League football for next season.

Feyenoord are unbeaten in their last five matches, and their French counterparts have won all but one of their last ten across the Conference League and Ligue 1. Dimitri Payet scored in both of Marseille’s quarter-final legs versus PAOK, while Feyenoord attacker Cyriel Dessers has netted eight goals in the Conference League.

In 2019 both Champions League and Europa League titles were won by English teams, the former by Liverpool and the latter by Chelsea. This time around England could potentially triple-up as conquerors of Europe. West Ham are flying the English flag in the Europa League with Leicester doing likewise in the Conference League. Liverpool and Man City each won their opening leg in the UCL semifinals this week and the two juggernauts are 90 minutes away from setting a date in the final on May 28.

The Europa League final is scheduled for May 18 in Seville with the winners set to earn qualification to next season’s Champions League group stage, where they will be placed into Pot 1. The Europa Conference League final takes place in the Albanian capital of Tirana on May 25, and the inaugural winners of the competition will earn a place in the Europa League group stage next season.

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