All the British clubs have avoided the European Giants in the Europa League round of 32 draw. But every team has a gem, these are the players that need to be kept an eye on.
DIEGO LOPEZ- Wolves vs ESPANYOL
If the Spanish strugglers are to cause any sort of upset then this man will be vital. The former Real Madrid shot stopper adds an element of class to Espanyol, that if they didn’t have then their chances of reaching the round of 32 would have been very slim. The Spaniard conceded just four goals in the groups. Including three clean sheets. Wolves will have to look to Diego Jota and Raul Jimenez to be lethal in front of goal to send them into the next round.
Mathieu Valbuena- OLYMPIACOS vs Arsenal
Much like Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, on his day Valbuena can be a match winner. If he decides in February that he wants to do something special then he will. Especially against Arsenal’s weak defence. The French playmaker scored against the Gunners rivals, Tottenham in the Champions League this season and will be looking to add more to his tally against english clubs after his controversial silence from football. A talented footballer that he once was, a talented footballer he still could be.
Hans Vanaken- CLUB BRUGGE vs Manchester United
The Belgium midfielder has really made his mark in European football this year, including two star performances against Real Madrid which he capt off with a goal. The attacking midfielder could be the thorn in United’s side. If Scott Mctominay fails to track the play maker then their below average defence could be exposed.
Karl Johan- Johnsson- FC. COPENHAGEN vs Celtic
Low scoring Copenhagen managed to find the net just five times in the groups. This will be a worry for the Danish side but if Karl Johan- Johnsson is between the sticks then they needn’t to worry. The Swedish keeper has only conceded four goals in 540 minutes of European football this season, including 15 saves. Celtic on the other hand have scored ten in the groups and qualifying. Six of these came from midfield so Neil Lennon will be looking for more of that if they are to test Johnsson.
Paulinho- Rangers vs BRAGA
High flyers Braga have a lot to thank Portuguese finisher Paulinho for their qualification to the knockout stages. He’s netted four goals in six games to see them top the group that included Wolves. This makes for the toughest test for any of the British teams. Going to Portugal is never easy but especially against such a free flowing Ricardo Pinto team. Although due to a lot of Portuguese links within Santo’s team, the midland’s side should have Paulinho and his teammates well studied ahead of their clash in February.
Here are my predictions for the round:
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