UEFA Europa League logo. (Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
COLOGNE: Even as the undercard for the double-bill that belatedly ends the European club season, the Europa League last eight, which kicks off in Germany on Monday, boasts a heavyweight line-up.
Both Manchester United and Inter Milan are former Champions League winners and like Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk and Leverkusen have all won the secondary European competition in one of its formats, while Wolves reached the final in 1972.
The competition has been reformatted after the European season was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, and like the Champions League in Lisbon, will be decided in single knockout matches, all behind closed doors, in Dusseldorf, Cologne, Duisburg and Gelsenkirchen.
The quarter-finals will be played on Monday and Tuesday when temperatures along the German Rhineland are forecast to reach the mid-30s Celsius.
Manchester United enter the tournament in strong form.
They ended the Premier League season unbeaten in 14 games to claim third place and have lost only once since football resumed in June.
Their last trophy was victory in 2017.
In Monday’s quarter-final they face Copenhagen, a club playing in their first European last-eight.
The winner will play Wolverhampton or Sevilla, who meet on Tuesday.
Sevilla are the Europa league specialists of the event, with five victories in the competition, all since 2007.
They won the competition three years in a row, 2014-2016, under the leadership of Unai Emery.
Now coached by Julen Lopetegui, the Andalusians face Wolves in Duisburg where they beat Roma in a one-off Round of 16 on Thursday.
In the other half of the draw, Inter Milan arrive in strong form having finished second in Serie A after ending the season with an eight-match league unbeaten run.
They will face a Bayer Leverkusen side playing just 30 kilometres from home in Dusseldorf and boasting some of the most coveted young talent in Europe in Kai Havertz, a German attacking midfielder, and Moussa Diaby, a French winger. Both are 21.
The winner will face either Shakhtar Donetsk, the 2009 winners, or Basel in the semi-finals.