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Liverpool primed for Man Utd showdown as West Ham thrive under David Moyes in Europe – EL & ECL hits and misses



Why Liverpool thrashing should frighten Man Utd

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Jay Bothroyd analyses a dominant performance from Liverpool in the Europa League

“We’ve never faced something like this,” Sparta boss Brian Priske said after his side were beaten 11-2 on aggregate by Liverpool on Thursday in the Europa League last 16. “Liverpool is a Champions League team and they should be playing in the Champions League.”

Priske’s side were undoubtedly out of their depth at Anfield but Liverpool capitalised in a fashion only they can. There were shades of the 7-1 demolition of Man Utd at Anfield last season. Erik ten Hag’s side looked out of their depth that day too.

Liverpool weren’t favourites before that game because of an uncharacteristically poor campaign – which is why they’re in the Europa League – yet they found themselves at the right time to show the form that has them in a title race this season.

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Jurgen Klopp was delighted with Liverpool’s 6-1 win against Sparta Prague in the Europa League and described it as a ‘really strange game’ as the hosts were 4-0 up after the first 15 minutes.

Sparta Prague felt the full wrath of that on Thursday. Much of the 6-1 second-leg result was self-inflicted. Poor passes out from the back and slack marking handed Liverpool glorious chances.

Other clubs, as Priske alludes to, wouldn’t take advantage quite as clinically. And it is this that must worry Man Utd ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Liverpool at Old Trafford. These are all sloppy errors they continue to make.

Liverpool dismantled their fiercest rivals last season when nothing was riding on the outcome other than pride. On Sunday, Jurgen Klopp’s side head to Manchester with a quadruple in their sights.

The stalemate in December at Anfield showed Ten Hag has wised up, but Liverpool weren’t at their sharpest that day in front of goal. Parking the bus quite so deep won’t be tolerated at Old Trafford either.

Should Liverpool find the spaces others have this season at the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday the latest instalment of this rivalry could become a nightmare for United.
Zinny Boswell

Moyesball works in Europe – what more do West Ham fans want?

West Ham celebrate Jarrod Bowen's goal - the second of the night
West Ham ran out comfortable winners against Freiburg

Harry Redknapp won at Cheltenham, then West Ham won in Europe.

David Moyes said before the game he thought the former Hammers’ boss horse racing triumph earlier in the day would be a good omen. The only difference was while Shakem UpArry won by under a length, West Ham won at a canter.

A lot has been said about ‘Moyesball’ with anti-Moyes banners, booing and disgruntlement all common practice among the Hammers fans – despite them currently sitting in a European place in the league table and now in the Europa League last eight.

Yes, when results do not go their way, Moyes’ style of play looks bad and frustrating. But it produces results, especially in Europe.

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David Moyes reacted to West Ham’s 5-0 win against Freiburg which saw them progress to the Europa League quarter-finals.

Here, Freiburg were allowed to have the ball by West Ham but it was pragmatic from the Hammers, not negative. It was not defensive, it was efficient – given three goals came from fast breaks and one via a set-piece. West Ham are among the best Premier League teams in both those categories.

“West Ham are massive” rang around the London Stadium on Thursday night, as did “Champions of Europe” – they are both those things because of Moyes.

In the last three years, the Scot has delivered a European trophy, a European semi-final and now a European quarter-final, at least. Some clubs would dream for such a run, so what more do the fans want?

Moyes is West Ham’s longest-serving manager since Redknapp. But negativity could push a successful servant out.
Sam Blitz

Brighton leave Europe with heads held high, but challenge now is to return

Danny Welbeck
Danny Welbeck has challenged Brighton to secure a return to Europe for next season

There was to be no miracle comeback for Brighton against Roma, but they exit the Europa League with their heads held high.

It was a first venture into Europe for the club and it was a campaign that included visits to Amsterdam, Athens, Marseille and Rome. A proper European tour which the club’s chief executive Paul Barber described in his pre-match programme notes as “magical memories” that the club would “wish to repeat”.

It was in Rome where their hopes were dashed after a 4-0 defeat, but pride was restored on the south coast with Danny Welbeck’s strike seeing Roberto De Zerbi’s side sign off from the Europa League with a win.

Welbeck talked after the game the pride Brighton can have in what they’ve achieved in their debut European season, but he knows the club need to get back there next season.

That is the challenge now for De Zerbi and his side. Focus now turns to the Premier League and finishing high enough up the league to get a second taste of European football.
Oliver Yew

Rangers European campaign over, can they still make season one to remember?

Rangers are out of Europe for this season
Rangers are out of Europe for this season

It was a disappointing night for Rangers after the drama of Lisbon in the first leg a week ago.

They more than matched Benfica again at a sell-out Ibrox until the opening goal, then they could not find that much needed response.

Philippe Clement’s substitutions did not make the impact he hoped for as a hectic schedule and injuries took their toll.

Rangers left themselves exposed at corners at Ibrox and they were eventually caught out for that decisive goal.

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Philippe Clement reacted to Rangers’ Europa League elimination to Benfica and said everyone associated with the club should be proud. Clement feels the team is still growing and is not concerned that the defeat will have a negative effect.

There is though still plenty to play for this season and they will need to pick themselves up quickly ahead of a trip to Dundee on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.

With the Scottish League Cup already won, they are top of the Scottish Premiership and have a Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park next month.

It has not been the European campaign of two seasons ago, but the Rangers still have the chance to make it one to remember as they look to clinch a domestic treble.
Alison Conroy

Villa bounce back despite Watkins worry

Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins goes down injured against Ajax and is later substituted during the UEFA Europa Conference League Round of 16, second leg match at Villa Par
Ollie Watkins went down injured in the first half and was later substituted

It was the same scoreline as on Sunday at Villa Park but the mood among the home support could not have been more different on Thursday evening. Unai Emery’s side bounced back from that 4-0 loss to Tottenham by hammering four past Ajax in Europe.

The final two goals came after the Dutch side had seen a player sent off but Villa had established their superiority long before that. When Moussa Diaby and, in particular, Leon Bailey are on song, isolating defenders, they can simply overwhelm sides.

Jhon Duran celebrates after scoring Aston Villa's third goal against Ajax
Jhon Duran celebrates after scoring Aston Villa’s third goal against Ajax

Villa will be regarded as the favourites to win this Europa Conference League now and have the opportunity to finish the season on a spectacular high. But they will surely need their best players available – and that was the biggest concern of the night.

Bailey described the first-half injury to Watkins as “really bad” – an open wound forcing him from the field soon after. As a result, there will be relief that Emery described the injury as “just a cut” and suggested the player could be available to face West Ham on Sunday.

Jhon Duran’s fine goal offers hope that he can contribute but some Villa supporters will look instead to the chances spurned by the young striker. Having Watkins fit remains crucial. A quick recovery and supporters can dream of glory in Athens and beyond.
Adam Bate

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