On Wednesday, Arsene Wenger discussed how strong the Europa League is this year compared to previous seasons, and named the teams to watch out for.
Currently at the last-16 stage, Arsenal hope to progress to the quarter-finals with the second leg of their tie against AC Milan kicking off on Thursday night. Other than those two sides facing each other, Wenger named the four teams he thinks put the competition “at a higher level than ever”.
Here are those sides that Arsenal may need to watch out for if they make Friday’s draw:
1Olympique de Marseille
Marseille have been playing Europa League football for longer than most this season, as they had to make it through two qualifiers just to earn a place in the group stages.
They didn’t have the most inspiring of campaigns in Group I, with two wins, two draws and two defeats, but they’ve looked confident in the knockout rounds so far.
Like Arsenal, they won the first leg of their round-of-32 tie 3-0, before falling to a one-goal defeat in the second. After that, they secured a two-goal lead in their last-16 tie, beating Athletic Bilbao 3-1.
Their star men at the moment are probably Dimitri Payet and Florian Thauvin. Most Arsenal fans will already know both from their respective spells in England.
Payet played for West Ham, and was frequently compared to Mesut Özil for a few months before disappearing back to France. This season he’s scored six goals and provided 15 assists. Three of those goal contributions came in Europa League knockout rounds.
Meanwhile Thauvin spent even less time playing for Newcastle United, only making 13 league appearances before he was loaned back to Marseille. They made the transfer permanent last summer.
Since then, the winger has scored 18 goals and provided 16 assists. I’m sure he’ll be keen to make an impression against English opposition if given the chance.
2017/18 European record
- Wins: 6
- Draws: 4
- Defeats: 3
- Goals scored: 18
- Goals conceded: 9