The Round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League unfolds over the next two Thursdays, so before the action kicks off around Europe on Thursday afternoon, we thought we would preview the eight matchups of the round.
Up next, we’re going to take a look at the matchup between Russian Premier League club Zenit Saint Petersburg and Spanish club Villarreal. Their leg one match kicks off from Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia on Thursday 7 March at 5:55pm GMT (12:55pm EST).
What Happened in the Round of 32
After winning Group C during the group stage, Zenit was seeded and drawn against Turkish club Fenerbahçe. Zenit entered the round of 32 with about a 3-in-5 chance of advancing to the Round of 16, only to lose leg one in Turkey 1-0. This caused nearly a reversal in those same advancement odds, with the Turks now favored on the return trip to Russia. Zenit was able to use the second leg home pitch to their advantage, winning 3-1 to advance 3-2 on aggregate.
Meanwhile, Villarreal was drawn against Iberian Peninsula mate Sporting CP of Portugal, and were also nearly 60% to advance. A 1-0 win for the Spaniards in Portugal in leg one shifted those odds even further, though Villarreal needed a late goal to draw 1-1 in leg two to assure their advancement (2-1 on aggregate) to the Round of 16.
What the Experts are Saying
Before the Round of 16 draw, Zenit was given the third-worst chance of advancing (28%), while Villarreal was less than 50% themselves (46%). After the clubs were drawn against each other, the odds for both clubs somehow both increased, though Villarreal is the 2-to-1 favorite in the matchup, and the only on of the two clubs with a small chance of winning (4%).
What We’re Thinking
Villarreal is also favored in the leg one match (42% vs 30%, with the remainder the chance for a draw), and as the host for the second leg, it’s easy to see why they are the overall favorite in this one. That said, Villarreal is also struggling mightily in La Liga this season, and are currently in the relegation zone, so maybe the home pitch will allow Zenit to find an early advantage in the matchup. This will definitely be one that we need to explore further after the match tonight.
Until next time…