Europa League Round of 32 Preview: Part 5

AFC Ajax (Netherlands) vs. Steaua Bucuresti (Romania)

Christian EriksenThe 4-time European Champions go into this game with probably less confidence in themselves than one would expect; being that they didn’t do nearly so well as one would’ve expected them to. Not that anyone could blame them, though, because they got kicked out of Champions League Group D (otherwise known as the group of death)! It’s always hard to be drawn against different champions around Europe, and I won’t blame them for having tried! Suffering possibly one of the worst defeats in the Champions League (losing 4 times out of 6; having conceded 16 goals), Ajax have seen it all! I doubt that this form, however embarrassing, has made Frank de Boer’s men any less strong (at least mentally-wise). They’re certainly still impressing domestically!

On the other hand, the Romanian champions (as it looks to be this season; with them standing high on top of the Romanian Liga 1) have been in good form in their European campaign. Losing only twice in their Europa League run this season, they finished top of Group E, with very few clubs challenging them! Laurentiu Reghecampf’s men look to be very strong challengers for the prestigious European trophy.

Key Players

I think that any manager in Europe and the rest of the world would love to have Rusescu on their team! He’s been absolutely brilliant this season; both domestically and European-wise! He’s scored 3 and assisted 2 in 5 games for Steaua in the Europa League group-stages and has scored 17 and assisted 6 in 19 games for Steaua in the Romanian Liga 1. Alexandru Chipciu playing on the right wing or even in central midfield could also work to Steaua’s advantage.

For Ajax, De Jong (Siem) has been very interesting to watch. With so many forwards but not so many goals, I think they will need to have better delivery in midfield to be at their best. Maybe left and right footed; someone like Eriksen for example. I think that there’s a bright future for the 20-year-old Danish international.

Prediction

For the first leg of this game to be played in Amsterdam, my prediction would be slim Steaua win. For the second leg of this game to be played in Bucharest, my prediction would be a draw.

1st Leg: AFC Ajax 2-3 Steaua Bucuresti
2nd Leg: Steaua Bucuresti 2-2 AFC Ajax

Tottenham Hotspur (England) vs. Olympique Lyonnais (France)

Aaron LennonThat AVB has turned out to be a very consistent manager and has now become general knowledge to everyone in the wonderful world of football! To be very honest, I didn’t see it coming; I mean, I thought he’d be okay, but not to this level! He’s really impressed all of us.

He began to settle into the Europa League well with Tottenham, and in doing so avoided any losses during his campaign. The Spurs finished 2nd in Group J, finishing only behind Lazio and showing that they’re a strong squad.

Lyon, in the same manner, completed all their group-stage missions without a single loss and high on top of the Group I table. They almost bagged all 18 group-stage points, but only just lost two to Praha in a 1-1 draw; not like that cost them anything, though! Rémi Garde and his men will be looking to keep their good European form AND keep a close eye on the French Ligue 1 title; no doubt about that!

Key Players

And what a tough one this is! If (when) Jermaine Defoe returns from his ankle injury, we’ll have a very interesting game at White Hart Lane this mid-week! He’s been sensational for his club in both domestic and European campaigns, having scored 4 in 6 for the Spurs in the Europa League group stages. On top of that, Jermaine has scored 10 goals in 25 games for Spurs domestically. Together with Gareth Bale, Jermaine has totally changed Tottenham’s play and turned their team into one of the strongest clubs in London and all of Europe; and in this case, in the Europa League. A lot of talent apart from these two on Andre’s camp as well; Aaron Lennon=great to watch, Lewis Holtby=looks promising, Emmanuel Adebayor=great player, Clint Dempsey=very consistent; not to mention Dembele and Sandro! Overall very strong squad.

Not to say Monsieur Garde doesn’t have a strong side either! Gomis has been incredible this season, both domestically and in the Europa League, scoring 12 in 23 with 5 assists (domestically) and 2 in 3 (Europe). He’s really a delight to watch! Benzia also looks very promising; having scored 2 in 3 Europa League matches as well. He could be the Holtby to Lyon-of course slightly younger!  I think Lisandro might also cause the Spurs some trouble at the Lane! Not to forget Michel Bastos, of course (if he wasn’t already on loan to Schalke)!

Prediction

My prediction for the first leg of this match to be played in London would be a draw. For the second leg of this match to be played in Lyon, I predict another high-scoring draw. I think that this one could actually go to extra-time; from which I predict a very close Tottenham win. If they manage to go through, though, I doubt that they’ll be getting past Inter in the Round of 16 (that’s if the latter team manages to get past a tough Cluj, of course)!

1st Leg: Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Olympique Lyonnais
2nd Leg: Olympique Lyonnais 3-3 Tottenham Hotspur* (3-4 AET)

Written by Ange Marline