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When you think about it, Jose Mourinho has rather a lot in common with Italy’s fearsome Mount Etna. Both hail from Europe, both strike terror into those in their shadow and although the views of the Continent’s most active volcano on the standard of modern referees are unknown, neither are ever very far from blowing their top.
Etna last erupted in February but The Special One came perilously close to an even more recent explosion after Manchester United’s FA Cup defeat at Stamford Bridge on Monday night. The Portuguese just about kept the lid on his volcanic frustration but should his side fail to get past FC Rostov on Thursday, be advised to stand back at a suitably safe distance.
Manchester Utd v Rostov – Thur 16th March 8:05pm
United escaped from the first leg in Russia and their 3,750-mile round trip with a 1-1 draw. Mourinho was less than impressed with the state of the pitch at the Olimp-2 stadium but with the immaculately coiffured Old Trafford turf awaiting the Red Devils this week, Jose’ boys are firm favourites to make it through to the quarter-finals.
A United victory on the night is 2/9 but Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s away goal in Russia last week makes the Red Devils even shorter at 1/10 to go through by any means, potentially on the back of a goalless draw. A more comfortable evening for the home side and a 2-0 victory at the Theatre of Dreams is 5/1 while a United goal deluge and 5-0 demolition of their visitors is 21/1. Rostov however are no mugs, beating the mighty Bayern Munich 3-2 on debut in the group stages of this season’s Champions League, and the Russian newbies are 13/1 to produce another major shock in England. An equally dramatic Rostov triumph on penalties to reach the last eight is 70/1.
The good news for United is probable return of Mr Ibrahimovic to the fray – his domestic suspension after attempting to decapitate Tyrone Mings not applicable to the Europa League – and United’s top scorer this term is 7/2 to score a couple at Old Trafford. The big Swede is priced at 14/1 for a second Europa League hat-trick of the season following his treble against Saint-Etienne in the last round. Rostov’s goal scorer from the first leg – striker Aleksandr Bukharov – is 60/1 to grab a brace at Old Trafford.
Roma v Lyon – Thur 16th March 8:05pm
Thursday night’s other games see the tournament’s second favourites Lyon (11/2) head to Italy to face Roma hoping to protect the 4-2 advantage they established last week at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais. The Italians are 19/25 to win in the capital but the French side are 2/5 to hold firm enough to go through to the quarter-finals.
Former Manchester City marksman Eden Dezko is the Europa League’s joint top scorer this season with eight and the Roma striker is 37/10 to score first at the Stadio Olimpico. Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette is 5/1 to be the first player to find the back of the net.
The all Belgian tie between Gent and Genk finished 5-2 to the latter in the first leg and they’re 1/100 to finish the job while the German dispute between Borussia Monchengladbach and Schalke is intriguingly balance at 1-1. Borussia have home advantage in the second leg and are 3/5 to book safe passage to the last eight while Schalke are rated 27/20 to keep their hopes alive of lifting what would be only the club’s second European trophy.
There’ll be no love lost when Turkey’s Besiktas clash with Greece’s Olympiacos at the Vodafone Arena. The first match finished 1-1 and the home side are 5/8 to win on Thursday night with Olympiacos rated at 5/1 to triumph on the road.
Cameroon international Vincent Aboubakar was Besiktas’ scorer last week and is 33/25 to repeat the trick in the return match while Argentinean midfielder Esteban Cambiasso is 21/2 to add to the goal he scored for Olympiacos in the first game.