Leverkusen’s unbeaten run and Klopp’s fairytale result at stake in Europa League quarters – Football

The Europa League has reached the quarter-finals, with Bayer Leverkusen and Liverpool looking to be the teams to beat.

Here are the stories in play ahead of Thursday’s first legs:


That’s 41 games and counting for Bayer Leverkusen and Xabi Alonso.

In what is shaping up to be a historic season, the German club are yet to be beaten in any match in any competition and are enjoying that unbeaten streak in a home game against West Ham.

Leverkusen are on course to clinch their first ever Bundesliga title this weekend, with the team having built a remarkable 16-point lead. The trophy will be awarded to them if second-placed Bayern Munich loses against Cologne on Saturday, otherwise on Sunday if Leverkusen wins at home against Werder Bremen.

Alonso’s side are also in the German Cup final, so a hat-trick of trophies is on the cards.

West Ham are enjoying another impressive season in Europe after winning the Europa Conference League last season.


Another team in contention for a treble is Liverpool, in manager Jurgen Klopp’s final season in charge.

The English League Cup has already been won and the team is involved in a tight Premier League title race with Arsenal and Manchester City, with just one point separating the three clubs with seven matches remaining.

If Liverpool reach the Europa League final, it would be Klopp’s final game after almost nine years – ensuring Reds fans would make the short trip to Dublin in their thousands in the hope of a fairytale ending for the German coach.

Next up for Liverpool is Atalanta. They met in the group stage of the 2020-21 Champions League, with each team winning away.


Lifting the Europa League would allow AC Milan to complete all of continental football.

Milan, a seven-time winner of the European Cup or Champions League, has also won the European Cup Winners’ Cup twice, as well as the UEFA Super Cup, a record five times, but n has never triumphed in the Europa League or UEFA. Cut as it used to be called.

The Rossoneri have never even reached the final – something their quarter-final opponents Roma have achieved twice, losing both in 1991 and last year.

Milan are no strangers to all-Italian knockout matches, having beaten Napoli in the Champions League quarter-finals last season before losing to Inter Milan in the semi-finals.


The resurgence of Marseille under the leadership of Jean-Louis Gasset has stalled. After winning his first five matches in charge, with 18 goals scored during this series, Gasset’s team lost the last four matches. Marseille’s bad habits returned, with defensive errors, sloppy play in midfield and a lack of attack up front all too apparent of late. At least Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is still scoring, and he has 23 goals this season. The former Arsenal and Barcelona striker has been particularly strong in Europe this campaign with 11 goals in 11 games. But Gasset also needs someone else to step up his attack against Benfica.


It’s also the Conference League quarter-finals on Thursday, with Aston Villa hosting Lille in the standout match.

Villa are managed by Unai Emery, whose pedigree in Europe is well known having won the Europa League four times – three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal – and also reaching the final with Arsenal.

Additionally, Olympiakos host Fenerbahce, Fiorentina travel to Viktoria Plzen, Club Brugge and PAOK. Olympiakos and PAOK are hoping to reach a home final in Athens.


AP Sports Writers Daniella Matar in Milan and Jérôme Pugmire in Paris contributed to this story.


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