Manchester United, Roma inexplicably lose in opening round
The Europa League continues this Thursday with 15 of the 16 games of the second matchday taking place. After some interesting results from Matchday 1, the heat will build up this time around.
Ahead of the games, here is an overview of how the first matchday went.
The most unexpected results of the first week took place at Old Trafford and Ludogorets Arena.
The former saw Real Sociedad bring three crucial points back home with a 1-0 victory over Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United. Brais Mendéz’s penalty at the hour mark made the difference as the visitors took a massive step towards playing Europa League football in the new year.
Meanwhile in Bulgaria, reigning Europa Conference League champions Roma fell to Ludogorets 2-1. Jose Mourinho’s side looked destined to claim a point late on before Nonato put the Bulgarian champs ahead two minutes from time. Having finished bottom of their group a year ago, it is already an improved start for Ludogorets.
In one of the top matches of the round, Lazio raced out to a 3-0 lead inside 30 minutes, ending up 4-2 victors over Feyenoord in Rome. Having only won twice in the group stage last season, this was the perfect result for the Biancocelesti in their hopes of topping the group.
Among other results, Arsenal (over Zürich), Freiburg (Qarabag), Real Betis (HJK), Fenerbahçe (Dynamo Kyiv) and AS Monaco (Crvena zvezda) were among the winners. PSV and Bodø/Glimt played to a 1-1 stalemate in the only draw of the round. The other results of the first round of play can be found here.
Europa League Matchday 2: In-form Braga, Union Berlin set for interesting clash
As mentioned, the action will continue on Thursday, with 15 games in store for fans.
The match between Arsenal and PSV — one of the top matches of the round — has been rescheduled due to a lack of security personnel for the tie to safely take place. The match will be played on Oct. 20 at 19:00 CET. It promises to be a fascinating battle between two well-established European sides.
The other Group A fixture will pit together Bodø/Glimt and Zürich in the Arctic Circle. This will be a massive tie in the national association coefficient rankings, as Norway and Switzerland are neck-and-neck for 12th place. This game could determine a lot come the end of the season for both countries.
The two teams that lost in Group B last time out will convene as AEK Larnaca hosts Dynamo Kyiv. Both sides competed in Champions League qualifying with the former losing in the second qualifying round, the latter the playoff round.
Rennes hosts Fenerbahçe in the other tie. Both teams have struggled for consistency so far in this young campaign, but they are the two teams who look likely to get out of their group.
Group C’s games has Real Betis and Ludogorets looking to go to six points, and Roma looking to bounce back as they will host HJK Helsinki. While the Spanish and Italian sides will be favorites, the first week of play showed that we never know what can happen.
Of the 15 ties this week, the one to watch will be in Portugal.
Second in the Primeira Liga, Sporting Braga hosts shock Bundesliga pacesetters Union Berlin. With 23 goals in seven competitive matches this season, Braga is on fire and could be a dark horse in this competition if they keep up their incredible form. The same could be said for Union Berlin, despite their 1-0 reverse last week to Union St. Gilloise.
The Belgian runners-up welcome a Malmö team that has struggled for any consistency in their season. The Swedish regulars can seldom afford another slip-up otherwise their hopes of continuing in the tournament past November will take a serious dent.
Real Sociedad face off with Omonoia Nicosia with hopes of putting themselves in a commanding position in the group. The Cypriot Cup winners will be in for a difficult affair with their more fancied Spanish opponents. The other Group E game pits Sheriff Tiraspol and Manchester United. The Moldovan side humiliated Real Madrid at the Bernabeu at this stage a year ago in the Champions League. Could they pull off another scalp this time at home?
Midtjylland hosts Lazio in Group F as the Danish team searches for their first win in Europe this season. Between the four Champions League qualifying games and last week’s defeat to Sturm Graz, something will need to change soon for the Herning-based team. Feyenoord takes on Sturm in the other fixture, as the Dutch giants look for a return to winning ways in Europe.
Olympiakos needs something to go their way. Failing to win any of their seven continental outings so far, they will battle Bundesliga club Freiburg in Group G. Christian Streich’s men are in solid form, and could be a force to be reckoned with in the Europa League this campaign. Nantes heads to Azerbaijan for an encounter with Qarabag. The Premier Liqa champions will need to get things going if they hope to have continental football heading into the new year.
The fascinating Group H will see Trabzonspor host Crvena zvezda while AS Monaco will entertain the challenge in Hungarian winners Ferencvaros. The latter game sees the two winners from round one go at it, with a chance to go top of the group. The Turkish and Serbian league winners, both losers in the Champions League playoff round in late August, will want to turn around their misfortunes before it gets too late.