This week’s football review: The 2015 Europa League Knock Out Stages
This season’s Europa League is turning into an exciting affair with nearly half of the remaining 32 sides in with a chance of winning the title. An added incentive for this year’s winners is automatic entry into next season’s Champions League and this has been reflected with strong team selection throughout the first leg games. Napoli are many people’s favourites to lift the trophy in Warsaw in May but Wolfsburg, Roma and Liverpool, as well as former winners of the title Inter Milan, Sevilla, Tottenham, Borussia Mönchengladbach, PSV Eindhoven, Anderlecht, Feyenoord and Zenit are also all in with a shout. Most of the ties are still in the balance after the first legs took place this week though English side Everton and Italian team Napoli both had big away wins which have all but guaranteed them a place in the last 16.
Liverpool managed to secure a 1-0 win over Turkish side Besiktas thanks to a late penalty in their home tie. However, there was some bad feeling when Italian striker Mario Balotelli insisted on taking the penalty instead of Jordan Henderson who was the designated penalty taker. After the game Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard called Balotelli’s action ‘disrespectful’ – though we should remember that he did score from the spot to give the Reds a slender first-leg lead.
Feyenoord football fans were in the news on Thursday for all the wrong reasons as they clashed with Italian police in Rome before their match with Roma. 23 Dutch fans were arrested after fighting with police in some of the most famous tourist spots in the Italian capital and it is expected that the Dutch club will face a heavy fine after the incident.
- in with a chance of: Has a possibility of winning
- added incentive: An extra or further form of motivation
- automatic entry into next season’s Champions League: The winning team would not have to qualify from their own league.
- in with a shout: Have a good chance of winning
- the first leg games: In European knock-out games the matches are decided over two legs: home and away.
- ties: Matches or games
- in the balance: The games are very close – not easy to decide the winners
- the last 16: The next round, the round before the quarter-finals
- have all but: Almost certainly
- to secure a 1-0 win: To manage to win; to earn a victory
- the designated penalty taker: The chosen penalty taker
- from the spot: A penalty (to score from the spot is to score from a penalty)
- slender: A narrow lead (e.g. 1-0 or 2-1)
- heavy fine: Will have to pay a lot of money as a punishment