The stage is set for the perennial English favorites Arsenal and United to square off in the finals in the Europa league. The finals, which will take place on May 26 in Poland, could be an all-English showdown between the UK’s two most titanic football clubs. United, the club that won the League in 2017, is up against the Spanish team Granada in the quarterfinals, and odds have them as the 7/5 favorite to take the win home this year.
Whoever wins that game goes on to the semifinals to face the winner of AS Roma and Ajax’s quarterfinal match. Ajax, the Netherlands-native team, won the League in 1992, and faced United in the 2017 finals. AS Roma, from Italy, are gunning for their first Europa League win.
Arsenal, meanwhile, the pound-for-pound most-popular football club in the UK, takes on Slavia Praha from the Czech Republic in their quarterfinal match. Slavia Praha previously bested the Glasgow Rangers, another English team, in the preceding round. Believe it or not, Arsenal has never won the Europa League: they lost in finals in 2000 and 2019.
With the brackets drawn, we now have dates for the upcoming games. The quarterfinals will take place on two days: April 8 and April 15, which will whittle the field down to just four teams remaining. Then, the semifinals will take place on April 29 and May 6, respectively, leaving just two teams standing. The final, on May 26, is expected to draw in record-breaking viewership numbers.
If the final is between United and Arsenal, English fans are sure to be ecstatic. However, both teams face stiff competition from the international field, and odds-setting isn’t the same as actually scoring goals. The international competition is infamously prone to huge upsets and massive swings in favor of the underdogs. It wouldn’t be unheard of for both juggernaut clubs to get knocked out of the competition during the quarterfinals, booting the UK from the competition altogether.
There’s a lot on the line: whoever wins the final round of the Europa League goes on to play in the 2021-22 UEFA Champions League. That league, which starts its preliminary qualifying round on June 8, is expected to be a massive draw. After a long, strange year last year with most sports leagues shut down, fans are ecstatic to see their favorite teams back in competition.