UEFA Europa League round of 16 first legs - preview & predictions

This season's UEFA Europa League round of 32 was one of the best in recent memory, serving up shocks, drama and most of all, goals.

The round of 16 also looks set to treat us to some intriguing ties. Two of the favourites, Manchester United and Milan are squaring off, while Arsenal, Rangers and Tottenham have similarly mouth-watering ties.

Sevilla are the current Europa League holders | Pool/Getty Images

This is where the tournament really starts to heat up and to mark the occasion, The UEFA Europa League Breakfast Show, presented by official tournament partner Kia, is being launched. Starting this Thursday and continuing every single matchday until the final, the programme will provide fans with the essential lowdown on everything they need to know on the morning of every fixture round.

Hosted by European football expert and poet Jack Collins alongside Josh Denzel, the UEFA Europa League Breakfast Show will premiere on Thursday 11 March at 8am CET on UEFA’s official YouTube channel.

Before you enjoy that though, read 90min's preview and predictions for every single Europa League round of 16 first leg being played this Thursday.

Manchester United vs Milan

United are among the favourites to win the competition | Pool/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 17.55 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Old Trafford
TV channel? BT Sport 1 (UK)

In the standout tie of the round of 16, two Champions League winners square off at Old Trafford.

United come into this one full of confidence having ended Manchester City's colossal 21-game winning streak last time out. Milan are also in good form, recovering from a slight wobble to string together a three game unbeaten run in Serie A.

This is shaping up to be an exciting game and with both sides possessing questionable defences, we should see quite a few goals as well. In the end, United should have just enough to take a lead into the second leg.

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Milan

Ajax vs Young Boys

Dusan Tadic will be hoping to help Ajax to the last 8 | BSR Agency/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 17.55 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Johan Cruyff Arena
TV channel? BT Sport Digital Exclusive (UK)

Ajax are currently top of the Eredivisie and beat a talented Lille side to qualify for the round of 16.

However, Young Boys are no slouches. They lead the way by 19 points in the Swiss Super League and provided a shock in the round of 32, beating Bayer Leverkusen 6-3 on aggregate.

Ajax have many ways to hurt their opposition, with Davy Klassen, David Neres and Dusan Tadic all impressing in previous rounds.

Prediction: Ajax 3-1 Young Boys

Dynamo Kyiv vs Villarreal

Dinamo Kiev are top of the Ukrainian league at present | Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 17.55 (GMT)
Where is it being played? NSC Olimpiyskiy
TV channel? BT Sport Digital Exclusive (UK)

Villarreal were impressive in the round of 32, dispatching of dark horses Red Bull Salzburg with minimal fuss.

There is little chance of the Yellow Submarine finishing in the top four of La Liga this season, so the Europa League represents their best chance of competing in the Europe's premier club cup competition next term.

Dynamo Kyiv enjoyed a less convincing route to this stage of the competition, just squeezing past Belgian champions Club Brugge 2-1 on aggregate. Do not underestimate them, though. They are currently top of the Ukrainian Premier League.

Prediction: Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 Villarreal

Slavia Prague vs Rangers

Rangers have just been crowned Scottish champions | Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 17.55 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Eden Arena
TV channel? BT Sport 3 (UK)

After dumping Leicester City out in the round of 32, Slavia Prague have another scalp in their sights this time around. They will be hoping for Abdallah Sima to again turn on the magic and help them get off to a good start against Rangers.

As for Steven Gerrard's side, they go into this one still high off the buzz of securing the club's first Scottish Premiership title in a decade.

With domestic commitments now tied up, the Gers will be putting all the eggs into their Europa League basket, but they must be wary of Slavia, who have an excellent home record.

Prediction: Slavia Prague 0-0 Rangers

Roma vs Shakhtar Donetsk

AS Roma beat Sporting Braga in the last round | Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 20:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Stadio Olimpico
TV channel? BT Sport Digital Exclusive (UK)

We had to do a double take here. Are we sure this is not a Champions League group game?

Roma have endured a topsy turvy domestic season and are currently hanging onto their top four place by the skin of their teeth. They will be aware that winning the Europa League offers a pathway into the Champions League, so will be taking no chances.

They will also need no reminding about the dangers Shakhtar Donetsk pose. They have beaten Real Madrid twice this season and strolled past Maccabi Tel-Aviv in the last round.

Prediction: Roma 2-2 Shakhtar Donetsk

Granada vs Molde

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's former club will fancy their chances of qualification | Pool/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 20:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Los Carmenes
TV channel? BT Sport Digital Exclusive (UK)

Both of these lesser known sides will fancy their chances of reaching a rare continental quarter final.

Granada has had a whale of time in their first ever season in European competition, getting through their group comfortably, before shocking the world by dumping Napoli out in the round of 32.

They are having a pretty average La Liga campaign though, and Molde - whose domestic season does not even get going until the end of the month - will be hoping to capitalise on any lack of confidence.

Prediction: Granada 2-0 Molde

Olympiacos vs Arsenal

Arsenal will be hoping for revenge after last year | ARIS MESSINIS/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 20:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Karaiskakis Stadium
TV channel? BT Sport 2 (UK)

Arsenal fans still have nightmares about their heart-wrenching exit from last year's competition at the hands of Olympiacos.

At least the Gunners have a chance to extinguish their demons this season when the reacquaint themselves with the Greek side. This time around Arsenal will at least have the talent of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith-Rowe to call upon, as well as Real Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard.

Their opposition have also strengthened though, as was evident in their impressive victory over PSV Eindhoven in the previous round.

Prediction: Olympiacos 1-1 Arsenal

Tottenham vs Dinamo Zagreb

Gareth Bale is hitting top form at the exact right time | Julian Finney/Getty Images

What time is kick off? 20:00 (GMT)
Where is it being played? Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
TV channel? BT Sport ESPN (UK)

After months of sterile, frustrating football Tottenham finally seem to be hitting their stride.

Buoyed by the fine performances of Gareth Bale, Heung-min Son and Harry Kane, Spurs have won four on the bounce in all competition. This includes an scintillating 4-1 win over Crystal Palace last time out.

As for their opponents, they currently top the Prva HNL and comfortably saw off Krasnodar in the round of 32. Do they have enough to fend off Jose Mourinho's in-form charges?

Prediction: Tottenham 3-1 Dinamo Zagreb

For the past three seasons Kia has been rewarding their customers and fans of the UEFA Europa League with exclusive content from around the competition, as well as providing vehicles at the Finals and touring the iconic trophy around Europe alongside former winners of the coveted trophy, as part of the UEL Trophy Tour.

This additional media partnership for The Breakfast Show means that Kia will continue to grant exclusive access to their content and online player celebrations; and viewers of the show will also get direct access to other exclusive content on Kia’s own pages.

Source : 90min