MATCHDAY: Man United hosts Barcelona in Europa League
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Thursday:
Some of the world's biggest soccer clubs could be heading out of European competition entirely this season as they prepare for the second legs of the knockout round playoffs. One of them will definitely be either Barcelona or Manchester United. The two heavyweights of the continent are locked at 2-2 after a gripping first leg at Camp Nou last week. Barcelona has never won the second-tier European competition — it used to be known as the UEFA Cup — and its hopes have been hit by injuries to Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé, along with a suspension ruling out midfielder Gavi. United returns to Old Trafford having lost just one of its last 19 games in all competitions and with forward Marcus Rashford having scored 16 goals in 17 games since returning from the World Cup. Also, Juventus is 1-1 with Nantes ahead of the second leg in France and Ajax is 0-0 with Union Berlin ahead of the return match in Germany. Seven of the eight playoffs are tightly poised — only one goal separates the teams — but Sevilla is in good shape against PSV Eindhoven, holding a 3-0 lead from the first leg in Spain. All teams are looking to reach the last 16.
Italian teams Fiorentina and Lazio are in contrasting positions as they look to advance into the round of 16 as one of the eight playoff winners. Fiorentina is in total control after winning 4-0 at Portuguese team Braga, but Lazio holds a slender 1-0 lead as it travels to Romania to face Cluj. Meanwhile, Bulgarian club Ludogorets goes to Brussels to take on Anderlecht with a 1-0 lead. Four of the other playoff openers finished 1-0 while the other finished 0-0 and there are no away goals.
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The Associated Press