Whilst still trying to come to terms with what happened in the Champions League this past week, we also had some big talking points in the Europa League this week, and we now know how the final four is shaping up, with a very real prospect of an all London affair to take place in Baku next month. So today, we will look over the results and I will make some early predictions for the semi finals, as well as a coup,e of games you might want to watch this weekend. Did you watch the Ligue 1 game I plumped for last week? Lille beat PSG 5-1...I did say it'd be worth watching! Never doubt me!!!
So, enough self praise for me, to the Europa League and the biggest game on Thursday took place in Naples where Napoli hoped to overturn a 2-0 deficit to defeat Arsenal. However, things did not go to Carlo Ancelotti's plan, and only 1 goal came from this game which would in fact be for Arsenal, a well struck free kick from Lacazette which killed the tie and the rest of the game was a formality. Napoli did have chances but too many were squandered, particularly from Jose Callejon. The big negative for the Gunners was the injury to Aaron Ramsey, an issue with his hamstring, that might mean we have seen the last of the Welshman in an Arsenal shirt before his summer move to the north of Italy.
The winner of this game would face the victors of the local derby between the two Valencian sides, Villarreal and Valencia CF (check me going all Graham Hunter and adding in the Club de Fútbol) and Valencia could only be the victims of their own downfall if they did not progress from this match up. Luckily for them, this was as routine as they come, an early goal from young full back Toni Lato and a second half strike from in form midfielder Dani Parejo saw Los Che win 2-0, with a 5-1 aggregate victory overall. Therefore it is Valencia who will travel to The Emirates to reunite with former manager Unai Emery, and this is going to be a very fun watch I think. Arsenal are probably the favourites and the team that my money would be on, mainly on the basis that they are one of the form sides in England and their results are more consistent than Valencia, but Los Murcielagos (The Bats, quick Spanish lesson for you) can absolutely hurt them, the first leg will be crucial, particularly if Valencia can grab an away goal.
In the other side of the draw, Chelsea had the straight forward task of getting past Slavia Prague having taken a 1-0 advantage from the first leg in the Czech Republic. And it would all look like plain sailing for The Blues as they would be 3-0 up after 20 minutes, Pedro and Giroud goals sandwiching an own goal. The first half would finish 4-1, but in the second half the game would sit at 4-3 on the hour mark after two goals from Petr Sevcik, and all of a sudden it was all looking rather tense at Stamford Bridge. But that 4th goal that would have put a massive amount of pressure on Sarri's side did not come, and you could hear the sighs of relief all across the UK! They will take on Eintracht Frankfurt in the semi finals, who did exactly what they needed to do and beat Benfica 2-0 and go through on away goals, having been 4-2 down in the first leg. It was not the usual suspects who would make the difference for the Germans, as Kostic and Rode would get the goals rather than Jovic and Haller, and at a time when the Bundesliga is being asked serious questions regarding their European performances, Frankfurt have proven to be a lone shining light. Still though, Chelsea have more squad quality and should make the final.
On Saturday evening at 19:30 on Premier Sports 1, Inter Milan host Roma in the Serie A. The race for Champions League football is hotting up, and a win for either side would make a massive difference. If Inter win, they are all but assured of getting 3rd spot in the league, which for a side that has been as bipolar as The Nerazzuri, is a good result. That being said, my hope (as a lover of Serie A) is that this does not paper over the obvious cracks at that club and they look to make big changed this summer, starting with the removal of manager Luciano Spalletti. However, should Roma get the win, they will be in prime spot to overtake AC Milan in 4th place, which in Italy guarantees Champions League group stage football. Interim boss Claudio Ranieri is just quietly getting on with things in Rome, and whatever tinkering he is doing is certainly producing the goods at the moment.
Sticking with Premier Sports 1, on Sunday at 19:45, Real Betis host Valencia in La Liga. Betis have fallen away from the Champions League race in recent weeks, something which fans of the Seville side have made sure their frustrations about are made clear to under fire boss Quique Setien, linked with the Barcelona job during this season. He is your typical project manager, who believes in his style of play to an extent that results will suffer but it's (in his eyes) a worthy sacrifice. That's all fine and well if your fans believe in that too, but Betis fans have seen their fierce rivals Sevilla win numerous trophies in the last decade and are fed up of living in the shadows. They clearly want a change, do not be surprised to see Setien leave early in the summer. Valencia are much more in the fight for 4th. Granted they may gain Champions League football through the Europa League, but it would be a risk to only focus on that, and they need to keep the pressure on the afore mentioned Sevilla for "best of the rest" plaudits. It will also be a good dress rehearsal for their Copa del Rey final at the Benito Villamarín, where they will face Barcelona.