English and Spanish clubs have long dominated the Europa League and the last team from outside those two countries to win the prestigious competition was Porto, who beat Braga in an all-Portuguese final in 2011.
Since then, La Liga clubs have won the trophy six times – with four of those triumphs belonging to Sevilla – while Premier League teams have won three times.
Ahead of Thursday’s return legs in the semi-finals, it seems likely that the run of English or Spanish clubs to be crowned Europa League champions will continue.
Manchester United, whose league match against Liverpool was postponed on Sunday after fans protested against the proposed Super League, came back from a 2-1 half-time deficit to trounce AS Roma 6-2 in their first leg match at Old Trafford.
Barring a footballing miracle, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s team can plan ahead for the May 26 final in the Miejski Stadium in the Polish city of Gdańsk.
However, despite a comfortable four-goal cushion, Solskjær believes there is still work to be done. “I don’t feel the job is done, but it [the first leg] was a good job done. We did well but we know they have quality.”
It thus seems unlikely that the Norwegian will not start with his strongest line-up, with Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes giving The Reds so much firepower up front that they are always good for a goal or two.
The second semi-final between Arsenal and Spanish club Villarreal is much more evenly poised after the La Liga club won 2-1 at home.
The important away goal for the Gunners was scored by Ivorian winger Nicolas Pépé, who converted from the spot midway through the second half.
Arsenal go into the return leg at the Emirates on the back of a 2-0 victory at Newcastle on Sunday, with Gabonese star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring his first goal for the club since early March.
Teenager Martinelli, who does generally not feature much in coach Mikel Arteta’s plans, was given a rare place in the starting line-up and the Brazilian not only set up Aubameyang’s goal, he impressed throughout the match and should be in contention to start against Villarreal.
In Spain, Arsenal were two goals down midway through the first half and had to fight their way back into the tie. Defender Pablo Mari says they will try to avoid such a situation from reoccurring.
“For me I think, we don’t have to wait to go into that situation to react. I think we have to learn about that and we have to put all the effort starting from minute zero to go to the final.”
Football fans throughout the world will be glued to their television sets on Thursday to watch history continue being made in the Europa League.
Fans in Africa have the opportunity to watch the matches live and exclusively on the StarTimes channels, as Africa’s leading digital-TV operator has been screening the best action from the Europa League throughout the season.
And starting from June 11th, StarTimes is going to broadcast all matches of the UEFA Euro 2020 live and in HD.