VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach (Germany) vs. SS Lazio (Italy)
Two-time Europa League winners, Mönchengladbach, go into this competition’s round of 32 thanks to a relatively good performance in the group stages of the competition, having lost only once to Fenerbahce during this season’s campaign. Lucien Favre’s men finished 2nd in Group C with 11 points from 6 games. They scored 11 goals in the group stages, only five less than Dnipro who were the club to score more goals in the Europa League group stages. They sit safe in the German Bundesliga and everybody knows that to survive in the German Bundesliga is an accomplishment!
Lazio, in the same manner, have been a strong team since day one. Losing no single match in their Europa League campaign this season, Vladimir Petkovic’s men finished top of their Group J and remain top contenders for the title in the Italian Serie A. They managed to score 12 goals in the group stages of the Europa League this season; one more than Mönchengladbach and only 4 behind Dnipro. Just as everyone respects the German Bundesliga, everyone loves the class that’s displayed in the Italian Serie A every matchday; at least I know I do!
Despite loaning out their top goalscorer in the Europa League this season, (Igor de Camargo to Hoffenheim), Mönchengladbach still remain with a class player in Luuk de Jong. He scored 2 goals in 3 games for Mönchengladbach this season in the Europa League and still impresses domestically. 21-year-old German international, Patrick Hermann could also turn out to be a wonderful weapon to use against the Lazio defense. Peniel Mlapa, although not too quick to add to his goal tally domestically, had also started alright in the Europa League for Mönchengladbach this season.
For Lazio, I think that with the way Klose has performed domestically, he will be closely watched by the Mönchengladbach defense. Hernanes isn’t half bad either; not even close! Libor Kozak had been wonderful for the Italian side as well; having scored 5 goals in 5 appearances for Lazio during their entire Europa League campaign this season. And finally, Floccari’s been a good influence for Lazio this season in all competitions; having scored a total of 8 goals and assisted 4 in 22 appearances in all competitions this season. He scored 3 in 5 appearances during the group stages of this competition. I think that having Radu play could help neutralize the likes of De Jong and prevent his side from conceding. I sincerely hope that injuries won’t come in the way of Stefan Radu for the remainder of this season.
My prediction for the first leg of this game to be played in Mönchengladbach would be a narrow win for Lazio. For the second leg of this game to be played in Rome, my prediction would be a comfortable Mönchengladbach victory.
1st Leg: VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-3 SS Lazio
2nd Leg: SS Lazio 0-3 VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach
Club Atletico de Madrid (Spain) vs. Rubin Kazan (Russia)
I had to save the best for last, of course! The defending Champions and the 10th best team in all of Europe (UEFA Ranking) are going to be the club with probably the biggest desire to win the trophy (that they’ve already won twice) once again! They were strongly challenged during the group stages of the competition and only just lost the number one position to Czech side, Plzen, in Group B. They lost twice and won the rest of their group stage matches. Diego Simeone’s men are one of the strongest (if not the strongest) contenders in this season’s competition, and losing to Academica doesn’t make this fact any less valid. Domestically in the Spanish Primera Liga as well, Atletico have also impressed, and are still continuing to do so. If there’s any team everyone should be watching this season, it’s Atletico Madrid!
Kurban Berdyev’s men, in the same manner, have had a wonderful season in the Europa League so far. Having lost none of their group stage games and finishing with an almost perfect score, Rubin Kazan finished top of Group H with 14 points from 6 games. Although not as strong as Atletico in domestic Leagues (they’re fighting for a Europa League spot, whereas Atletico are not too far behind leaders, FC Barcelona), Rubin Kazan have established themselves as one of the Europa League’s “big boys” this season. They’ve won the same number of times as Atletico have and so they won’t be feeling like underdogs; not in any way!
Radamel Falcao has had a great season and that’s no secret! Diego Costa is the second Falcao for me! Can’t really ask for more in a collaborative strike-force (where Diego Costa is the provider and Falcao the receiver and implementer)! Together, Falcao and Diego Costa have scored 22 goals in the Primera Liga so far this season (19 belonging to Falcao, by the way; Diego Costa has assisted 9 goals). Diego Costa has also scored twice in five games for his club in the Europa League. So you definitely want to watch out for those two! Raul Garcia and Arda Turan could also be very essential in Atletico’s game. And I can’t go on without mentioning Koke too! Strong squad on Diego Simeone’s side!
For Rubin, I think we all enjoyed watching Venezuelan international, José Rondón, score 4 goals in 6 group stage matches for his side, as well as some class play from Aleksandr Ryazantsev. Bibras Natkho has also impressed in domestic leagues for Berdyev’s men. Vladimir Dyadun also managed to score good goals for his side this season; including one in the Europa League.
My prediction for the first leg of this game to be played in Madrid would be a win for the Russians. For the second leg of this game to be played in Moscow, I predict a big win to Atletico! Decided to go all out on this one!
1st Leg: Club Atletico de Madrid 2-3 Rubin Kazan
2nd Leg: Rubin Kazan 1-4 Atletico de Madrid
It’s going to be a very interesting Round of 32 and anything could happen. Many teams are out to prove to the world that they deserve to be the second Champions of Europe, but there’s only one spot available. Who will win this season’s Europa League? We’ll just have to wait (I know how hard it can get, but there’s no other option) and see!
Written by Ange Marline