June 18, 2021

Europa League hits and misses

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Thomas wastes no time in starting Arsenal Partey

Thomas Partey enjoyed a stellar full debut for Arsenal

Thomas Partey’s debut was the first thing on Arsenal minds after seeing the new arrival’s name on a Gunners team-sheet for the first time ahead of their 2-1 win over Rapid Vienna.

Partey controlled the game from the off and never let up, in spite of spending more than half the game on a yellow card, while also showing what he can do with the ball with an impressive range of passing.

His performance was summed up by one brief moment of first-half brilliance, tackling Daniel Grahovac before then chasing down Dejan Ljubicic to take the loose ball off him too.

He never stopped running but played with such discipline that Arteta, a man who does not mince his words, labelled his performance “fantastic” after the game.

Passing references have already been made comparing him to Patrick Vieira, who 15 years on has still not been replaced in north London.

It is far too soon to be drawing conclusions about similarities between the two, but keep this level of performance up against Premier League opposition and Arsenal may have finally found Vieira’s replacement.
Ron Walker

Arsenal fixtures

Sun Oct 25: Leicester (h)

Thurs Oct 29: Dundalk (h)

Sun Nov 1: Man Utd (a)

Thurs Nov 5: Molde (h)

Sat Nov 7: Aston Villa (h), TBC

Thurs Nov 26: Molde (a)

Sat Nov 28: Wolves (h) TBC

Thurs Dec 3: Rapid Vienna (h)

Sat Dec 5: Tottenham (a) TBC

Thurs Dec 10: Dundalk (a)

Sat Dec 12: Burnley (h) TBC

Spurs have strength in depth


One accusation levelled at Tottenham over the years has been the threadbare and fragile nature of their squad.

When their strongest XI is fit and available, Spurs have a team capable of competing against the very best in Europe, but if you scratch beneath the surface when injuries or fatigue take their toll, the lack of strength in depth has often proved to be their undoing.

Those days, however, look to be a thing of the past. Jose Mourinho’s summer recruitment drive has brought quality and cover throughout his squad, and it looks to get getting stronger with each game.

Mourinho made eight pre-match changes for the visit LASK, resting star duo Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, but not at the expense of quality as summer arrivals Gareth Bale and Carlos Vinicius made their full Spurs debuts.

It resulted in a 3-0 opening-night Europa League victory, as Mourinho’s bid for a third triumph in the competition started in comprehensive fashion.

If Mourinho is to guide Spurs to this piece of silverware – their first since 2008 – just as he did with Porto and Manchester United, the squad he has assembled could prove crucial.
Jack Wilkinson

Arsenal fixtures

Sun Oct 25: Leicester (h)

Thurs Oct 29: Dundalk (h)

Sun Nov 1: Man Utd (a)

Thurs Nov 5: Molde (h)

Sat Nov 7: Aston Villa (h), TBC

Thurs Nov 26: Molde (a)

Sat Nov 28: Wolves (h) TBC

Thurs Dec 3: Rapid Vienna (h)

Sat Dec 5: Tottenham (a) TBC

Thurs Dec 10: Dundalk (a)

Sat Dec 12: Burnley (h) TBC

Leicester enjoy timely European boost

James Maddison celebrates a Leicester goal

This was job done with more than a dash of swagger about Leicester following their recent home travails. It was also their first victory at this level of European football at the fifth attempt.

Brendan Rodgers was again without Jamie Vardy, and went into their Europa League group stage opener against a plucky Zorya Luhansk on the back of three defeats from their last four outings at the King Power Stadium.

But James Maddison was back in the side and he marked his European debut in style, scoring the opener and combining to good effect with Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho during an encouraging run-out. Bigger tests lie ahead, but Rodgers will be delighted with the manner his side made light work of a potentially tough opener.

Most pleasing will perhaps be his side’s first clean sheet since the opening weekend of the season, and Wesley Fofana looks like he’s getting better with each passing game having nearly capped a composed outing with his first Foxes goal.
Ben Grounds

Leicester fixtures

Sun Oct 25: Arsenal (a), 7.15pm

Thurs Oct 29: AEK Athens (a)

Mon Nov 2: Leeds (a)

Thurs Oct 5: Sporting Braga (h)

Sat Nov 7: Wolves (h), TBC

Thurs Oct 26: Sporting Braga (a)

Sat Nov 28: Fulham (h) TBC

Thurs Dec 3: Zorya Luhansk (a)

Sat Dec 5: Sheff Utd (a) TBC

Thurs Dec 10: AEK Athens (a)

Sun Dec 13: Brighton (h) TBC

Rangers leave fortress Liege with win thanks to Roofe wonder strike

Kemar Roofe celebrates making it 2-0 during the UEFA Europa League match between Standard Liege and Rangers

Rangers arrived at the fortress Stade de Sclessin knowing Standard Liege rarely lose at home in Europe.

In fact, the 10-time Belgian champions had not tasted defeat on home soil in a European tie for six years and 15 games ahead of the visit of Steven Gerrard’s young side.

However, buoyed by their 2-0 win at rivals Celtic in Saturday’s Old Firm clash, Rangers made a mockery of those stats, leaving a rain-drenched Liege with an impressive 2-0 victory to kick off their Group D campaign in style.

What is more, the win was sealed with a goal-of-the-season contender and the longest strike ever recorded in the Europa League as substitute Kemar Roofe netted from inside his own half!
Richard Morgan

Rangers fixtures

Sun Oct 25: Livingston (h)

Thurs Oct 29: Lech Poznan (h)

Sun Nov 1: Kilmarnock (a)

Sunday 1st November 11:00am Kick off 12:00pm

Sky Sports Football HD

Thurs Nov 5: Benfica (a)

Sun Nov 8: Hamilton (h)

Sat Nov 21: Aberdeen (h)

Thurs Nov 26: Benfica (h)

Thurs Dec 3: Standard Liege (h)

Sun Dec 6: Ross County (a)

Thurs Dec 10: Lech Poznan (a)

3-5-2 in the bin for Celtic?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic in action for AC Milan during the UEFA Europa League match between Celtic and AC Milan at Celtic Park

Celtic’s defeat at home to AC Milan was a tough watch for anyone associated with club. Well, a tough watch for the first 45 minutes. Strangely, Neil Lennon decided to keep faith with the same 3-5-2 system that drew a huge amount of criticism in the 2-0 defeat at Rangers. Youngster Stephen Welsh was at fault for the opening goal and his chemistry with Shane Duffy was non-existent as Zlatan Ibrahimovic ran riot in the space afforded to him.

Welsh and Leigh Griffiths were replaced at the break as Moi Elyounoussi and Ryan Christie were added with a switch to a 4-3-3 sparking the hosts into life.

Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Aberdeen, live on Sky Sports, Lennon may have found a formula to get things moving back in his favour.
Lewis Jones

Celtic fixtures

Sun Oct 25: Aberdeen (a)

Thurs Oct 29: Lille (a)

Thurs Nov 5: Sparta Prague (h)

Sun Nov 8: Motherwell (a)

Sun Nov 21: Hibernian (a)

Thurs Nov 26: Sparta Prague (a)

Thurs Dec 3: AC Milan (a)

Sun Dec 6: St Johnstone (h)

Thurs Dec 10: Sparta Prague (a)

Sun Dec 13: Kilmarnock (h)