MATCHDAY: Semifinals in Europa League, Conference League; Newcastle-Brighton in EPL
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Thursday:
Juventus will almost certainly be without midfielder Paul Pogba in the second leg of the Europa League semifinals against six-time champion Sevilla. The teams drew 1-1 last week in Italy. Pogba started Sunday in Serie A for the first time since his move back from Manchester United in the offseason but had to be substituted due to another injury. As substitute in last week’s first leg, Pogba headed a cross for Federico Gatti to score in the dying seconds to salvage a draw. Sevilla also has injury worries after winger Lucas Ocampos sustained a muscle problem in Torino after he set up the opening goal for the visitors. José Mourinho is looking for back-to-back European titles with Roma when they travel to Bayer Leverkusen with a 1-0 advantage from the opening leg. Winning the second-tier competition for his sixth European trophy could be the only chance for Mourinho’s team to qualify for the Champions League.
EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE
West Ham travels to the Netherlands with a 2-1 advantage over AZ Alkmaar from the semifinal first leg as it hopes to reach a European final for the first time in 47 years. To do so, the Hammers need to extend their unbeaten streak in Europe this season to 14. Defender Vladimír Coufal and striker Michail Antonio should be available after recovering from injuries. AZ targets its second European final. Fiorentina needs to rebound from an upset 2-1 home loss to Basel to avoid the fourth straight semifinal elimination in Europe. The Italians won the previous five away games in Europe’s third-tier competition.
Brighton visits Newcastle in hopes of becoming the fourth serious contender for one of the remaining two Champions League qualification spots in the Premier League. Brighton is coming off a 3-0 win at Arsenal that virtually ended the longtime leader’s title chances and kept alive its own slim top-four hopes. Brighton is in sixth place, eight points behind both third-place Newcastle and fourth-place Manchester United but with a game in hand, and seven points behind fifth-place Liverpool having played two fewer games. Saudi-controlled Newcastle is having a wobble after losing to Arsenal and drawing at Leeds in its last two games. Another slip-up against Brighton would open the door further for Liverpool, which has won six straight matches in a late-season rally. However, a win for Newcastle would mean the northeast team would need one more victory in its last two games to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.
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