Thursday night gave us the final four teams of the Europa League 2017 as Manchester United & Lyon made hard work of their victories against Andrelecht & Besiktas respectively, whereas Celta Vigo & Ajax had done enough in their 1st leg fixtures to put their progression beyond doubt. So let`s take a look at the teams` chances of winning the second tier competition of European football.
The Amsterdam Giants are still a far-cry from their all conquering counterparts from the 90s, but they managed to reach the semifinal in Europe after a long time as their four highest rated players are aged 23 or under, with 19-year old Kasper Dolberg leading their scoring charts.
Ajax are the only team among the semi-finalists that are in the race for the league title as they currently lie one point behind leaders Feyenoord, which may lead their manager to rotate his squad as they fight on two fronts.
3. Celta Vigo
Unsurprisingly in the final four, Celta Vigo will be aiming to ensure a Spanish side wins the Europa League for the fifth time in six seasons. Liverpool flop Iago Aspas has been in fine form all season and has five goals in the tournament to date, though in general Celta haven’t been the strongest going forwards in open play.
In fact, eight of their 19 goals in Europe have come from set pieces or dead-ball situations, with the team relying on solid showings from Gustavo Cabral and Hugo Mallo at the back. Celta are struggling at 10th place in La Liga which makes winning this competition their only chance to be back in Europe next season.
Arguably the biggest hurdle in Manchester United`s way to win the Europa League, Lyon have enjoyed a strong season in Europe. They were handed a tough draw in the Champions Legaue group stage, but proved that they are a touch nut to crack, suffering narrow defeats to Sevilla, Juventus and Roma.
Their form since dropping down to the Europa League has been very impressive, scoring a massive 18 goals in five knockout phase matches. The front two of Alexandre Lacazette and Nabil Fekir, who have combined for seven goals in as many starts, are capable of troubling any team, while captain and midfield enforcer Maxime Gonalons may well be pivotal to their chances of success.
1. Manchester United
José Mourinho has made no secret that the Europa League represents the best chance for his team to qualify for the Champions League next season, although he may be reassessing that opinion after victory over Chelsea on Sunday.
The quarter-final win over Andrelecht was marred by worrying injuries to regular starters Marcos Rojo & Zlatan Ibrahimovic, regardless, Manchester United have enough strength in depth and are outstanding favorites to lift the trophy on 24 May.
The fact that it also represents a chance to win more silverware for the Red Devils and Mourinho, especially a competition both have never won means United will not be short of motivation going into the semis.