Arsenal, Wolves, Man Utd, Celtic and Rangers in Europa League
Thursday 20 February 2020 18:48, UK
Charlie Nicholas runs the rule over this week's European action with five British sides in the Europa League knockout stages.
I find this game so hard to predict. Club Brugge are breezing the Belgian league, having lost just the one game in 26, but nothing is stronger than the Premier League. The battle for a Champions League spot is quite incredible and tells you all you need to know.
Manchester United have played superbly twice against Manchester City, and three times against Chelsea this season alone. They are supposed to have these massive results in the locker when they go away from home, and this is why it is hard to predict.
Bruno Fernandes looks a decent player, while Anthony Martial was in the mood against Chelsea - Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team selection was spot on for the counter-attack. The same opportunity presents itself here. I was amazed watching Eric Bailly; he has pace, he is tenacious and he was brilliant at Chelsea. That was the player I was used to seeing before he joined Man Utd. Maybe it is time for him to prove himself again.
They will not force it and just play on the counter-attack here. After Monday, I have to go and judge them accordingly, and I think they will win here.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-2 (9/1 with Sky Bet)
I am not getting carried away after the weekend win over Newcastle. You can genuinely feel, even with Mikel Arteta's second win, that they are becoming dogged and a better all-round side. He is prepared to look at other players. If a team were to benefit from the winter break, it would have been Arsenal; they needed it. The draws were becoming a concern, as was the league position. The fans have liked what they have seen, and quite like the unity, but that is something they have been disguising for a while. He has told them a few home truths, some have accepted more than others, like Mesut Ozil, who seems to be on the up again.
Some young players are playing well. It was harsh on Gabriel Martinelli to miss out, and Mateo Guendouzi has done well, but he is not moving on at the minute; he has upset Arteta, who wants him fit; he will not be there until he sorts himself out.
Olympiakos won well at the weekend so we could be in for a good game. It is more promising for Arsenal that is for sure, but the clean sheets won't keep coming, I don't think.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-1 (11/2 with Sky Bet)
Espanyol played well against Sevilla, and Barcelona a couple of weeks ago, and in the past have been technically good. These sides have a typical Spanish feel and can be very dangerous at times. I do not think they will sit in and suffocate. If they play on the counter-attack they will play it well, but they will still want to have an influence on the game. Wolves were unlucky and should have got the three points against Leicester. This is the type of game that Wolves will enjoy.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-0 (6/1 with Sky Bet)
Because Celtic are going so well domestically, they must focus and prepare correctly for this clash. They did not play well but got the win at Aberdeen, and this is a remarkable team for getting themselves out of holes. Copenhagen have lost three in a row, and there are a few players struggling with injury.
I expect Celtic to go through over two legs and they are favourites. Celtic have improved in Europe, taking the scalps of Lazio twice was a big turning point for them. There is still vulnerability away from home in Europe, so it is how they manage that which will be the key.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 1-1 (6/1 with Sky Bet)
Rangers have been disappointing to say the least since returning from the winter break. They got over the line against Livingston, but the big thing that is giving Steven Gerrard issues is the pitch. The storm means the grass will be a struggle to play on, so it will be an in-your-face traditional aggressive style of play that will be thrown at the Portuguese. Braga will handle this well, but these sides are always suspect when travelling away from home. They are tidy but you can rough them up.
Alfredo Morelos has been quiet since coming back, not only in terms of goals but in relation to incidents and cards too. These are the types of games which Morelos will thrive in. They beat Porto and have beaten better teams than this, so I expect them to go and win this. It will be a tense affair but a powerful and aggressive performance will ensure Rangers pick up the win.
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-1 (8/1 with Sky Bet)