Markel Susaeta of Athletic Bilbao is beaten to the ball by Patrice Evra of Manchester United during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester United and Athletic Bilbao at Old Trafford in Manchester, England. Athletic Bilbao faces Man Utd on March 15, 2012. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Manchester United and Manchester City are behind in their ties, while FC Twente and Valencia attempt to hold onto the first leg leads they built at home.
Fans and media alike couldn't keep Manchester City and Manchester United out of the spotlight in the UEFA Europa League if they tried. As much as the competition should be about the other teams in the competition just as much as it is about England's top two teams, they have put themselves in situations where they are the story. City are in a tough, but manageable hole, while United are truly underdogs in the second leg of their tie.
There are other games, and most of them should be good. PSV Eindhoven scored two late goals at Mestalla to make their tie interesting, while Schalke 04 are in a 1-0 hole against Steve McClaren's FC Twente. Udinese and Metalist Kharkiv both struggled in the first leg of their ties, and they will need fantastic performances to go through.
2:00 p.m. ET, 6:00 p.m. GMT, 7:00 p.m. CET kickoffs (goals in parenthesis)
Athletic Bilbao (3) vs. Manchester United (2)
TV: GolTV (USA), Telelatino (Canada), Channel 5 (UK)
Manchester United are in brilliant form in the Premier League, but it's going to take a truly spectacular performance to reverse their loss at Old Trafford, if only for the away goals. Marcelo Bielsa's teams and this Athletic team in particular are very attack-oriented, but they proved in the last second minutes of their tie against Lokomotiv Moscow that they know how to sit on a lead if they have to. An early Red Devils goal will make this one fun.
PSV Eindhoven (2) vs. Valencia (4)
TV: DirecTV Soccer (USA), EuroWorld Sport (Canada), ITV 4 (UK)
Valencia led PSV 4-0 at the Mestalla, but gave up two late goals that kept this tie alive. Now, PSV will go through with a 2-0 or 3-1 win, results that seem very plausible. Both teams are faltering in their domestic leagues, especially defensively. If you have no interest in Manchester United and just want to see the most exciting game possible, watch this one. There might not be six goals like the first leg, but there will be goals.
Hannover 96 (2) vs. Standard Liege (2)
TV: DirecTV Soccer (USA), FOX Sports World (Canada)
Standard Liege might have played themselves out of the Europa League when they let Mame Diouf score the equalizer for Hannover in Belgium last week. They're not in terrific form and Hannover are undefeated at home in Europe and the Bundesliga this season. The match between these two teams in the group stages in Hannover resulted in a 0-0 draw.
Udinese (0) vs. AZ Alkmaar (2)
TV: DirecTV Soccer (USA), Mediaset Italia (Canada), ESPN (UK)
The Zebrette rested Antonio Di Natale in the first leg and they paid for it. It didn't help them in the league any; they're coming off of a 1-0 loss to Novara. Maarten Martins and Erik Falkenburg put them to the sword in Holland, scoring twice in the second half. Udinese is going to struggle to keep them scoreless, so they're going to need 'Toto' Di Natale to bring his best to go through.
4:00 p.m. ET, 8:00 p.m. GMT, 9:00 p.m. CET kickoffs
Besiktas (1) vs. Atletico Madrid (3)
TV: DirecTV Soccer (USA), TLN (Canada)
Just like they did against Lazio, Atletico Madrid all but ended their tie in the first leg. Besiktas did grab an away goal to keep this interesting, though, meaning a 2-0 win sees them through. That seems highly unlikely given Atletico's goal-scoring form in this competition, and they're coming off a 2-0 win over Granada in La Liga. Atleti have played well away from home recently, but a trip to Istanbul is no easy task. The Inonu Stadium is one of the most intimidating environments in world football.
Manchester City (0) vs. Sporting Lisbon (1)
TV: GolTV (USA), EuroWorld Sport (Canada), ESPN (UK)
Things are not going well for Manchester City at the moment. They have lost their last two games in all competitions, and those losses have them behind in the Premier League and Europe. Their one-goal deficit against Sporting Lisbon is a manageable one -- they're slight favorites to advance, in fact -- but their poor finishing in Lisbon and against Swansea on the weekend was alarming. City will create chances, they just have to start putting the ball into the net. It's the simple things going wrong at the moment.
Olympiakos (1) vs. Metalist Kharkiv (0)
TV: DirecTV Soccer (USA), FOX Sports World (Canada)
This tie looked intriguing on the surface, but Olympiakos are well in control. They have still not failed to lose a game or conceded a goal in Greece or in Europe since January. They are currently on a nine-game shutout winning streak. Metalist have some great attacking talent, but there's not a lot of reason to believe that they can come back in this tie.
Schalke 04 (0) vs. FC Twente (1)
TV: DirecTV Soccer (USA), ITV 4 (UK)
Schalke 04 are historically one of the biggest chokers and underachievers in world football. They made a fantastic run to the Champions League semifinals last season, but it was almost certainly the biggest ever achievement for a club that has inexplicably never won the Bundesliga. Their loss to Twente was sandwiched between two losses in the league, and it appeared that Schalke was in their typical spring slide. They rebounded with a win against Hamburg this weekend, however, inspiring confidence that they might be able to turn this tie around. Twente are coming off of a loss in the Eredivisie, and this could be the beginning of turns of momentum for both teams.