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Man Utd almost through but British rivals still have work to do in Europa League

Manchester United and Real Sociedad face off again on Thursday
(Image credit: Marco Alpozzi)

Few of the remaining Europa League combatants can consider their work already done as they prepare for the second legs of their round-of-32 ties on Thursday.

Premier League side Manchester United take a 4-0 lead into their clash with Spaniards Real Sociedad at Old Trafford after a dream first leg in Turin, but the likes of Arsenal, Leicester and Rangers still have much to play for.

PSV Eindhoven have an uphill battle to claw back a two-goal deficit against Olympiacos, while Ligue 1 leaders Lille face a difficult trip to Ajax after a 2-1 home defeat.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the latest round of fixtures.

Job all but done

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While Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will allow his players to take nothing for granted, he will know their hugely impressive first-leg performance planted one foot firmly in the last 16. Goals either side of half-time from Bruno Fernandes and further strikes from Marcus Rashford and Daniel James secured a priceless 4-0 advantage and a platform from which to kill off any lingering hope for Real Sociedad if they can score early. There is also perhaps an opportunity to rest some of his bigger names.

Graft for the Gunners

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka (left) celebrates his equaliser against Benfica

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka (left) celebrates his equaliser against Benfica (Marco Iacobucci/PA)

Bukayo Saka’s equaliser in Rome ensured Arsenal head into their second-leg showdown with Benfica all square at 1-1, but with work to do. The Gunners have won only one of their last six games in all competitions – they beat Premier League rivals Leeds 4-2 on February 14 after racing into a 4-0 lead – and have lost three of them, a run which culminated in Sunday’s 1-0 home defeat by Manchester City. A goalless draw would see Mikel Arteta’s men through, but the manager will be keen to leave nothing to chance. Leicester, meanwhile, host Slavia Prague with the tie delicately poised at 0-0 after the Czech Republic leg.

Goals, goals, goals

What a result in Belgium!Match Report: http://rng.rs/3drlN16#UEL

Posted by Rangers FC on Thursday, February 18, 2021

Like Manchester United, Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers return to home territory having scored four times, but in nowhere near as strong as a position after conceding three against Royal Antwerp. Indeed, the Belgians led 3-2 with just seven minutes remaining, only for Ryan Kent and Borna Barisic to strike either side of Abdoulaye Seck’s 88th-minute dismissal. Greek champions Olympiacos head for PSV Eindhoven defending a 4-2 lead, while Hoffenheim and Molde will renew hostilities in Germany after a 3-3 draw in Villarreal.

Dropouts to drop out?

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At least one of the eight clubs which joined the competition from the Champions League will not make it to the last 16 with Club Brugge and Dynamo Kiev, who drew 1-1 in Ukraine, going head-to-head. RB Salzburg are in danger of joining the losers after a 2-0 home defeat by Villarreal, while Russian outfit Krasnodar head for Dinamo Zagreb trailing 3-2. Ajax, Shakhtar Donetsk, Olympiacos and Manchester United, however, all boast first-leg leads.

Serenity at San Siro?

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AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli will hope for a rather less eventful evening at San Siro than he endured at the Rajko Mitic Stadium in Belgrade last week when Red Star Belgrade head for Lombardy. The Italians, who lost the Milan derby 3-0 at the weekend, led 1-0 and 2-1 in Serbia courtesy of Radovan Pankov’s own goal and Theo Hernandez’s penalty either side of Guelor Kanga’s spot-kick, but eventually had to make do with a 2-2 draw after the home side levelled in stoppage time through substitute Milan Pavkov despite Milan Rodic’s 77th-minute red card.