• Jamie Cameron

EUROPA LEAGUE LONG-SHOTS: THREE EXCITING ROUND OF 16 TIES THAT HAVE GONE UNDER THE RADAR




As ever, the last 32 of the Europa League threw up some high-scoring thrillers - as well as some fascinating stories, none more so than Molde putting out Hoffenheim.


Rangers and Antwerp shared 14 goals between them over two legs, while a determined Red Star Belgrade came so close to eliminating seven-time European champions AC Milan.


The draw for the last 16 was done on Friday, and it’s set up some exciting clashes between a mix of teams, a variety which the Champions League could only dream of.


Here are three ties that you may not have heard too much about but are sure to get the pulses racing in a couple of weeks:



Ajax v Young Boys


Young Boys joined Molde in upsetting a German outfit last week, seeing off Bayer Leverkusen fairly comfortably in the end.


They won 2-0 at the BayArena to complete a 6-3 aggregate victory, and with a 21-point lead in the Swiss Super League, the Bern side can focus all their attentions on a duel with Ajax.


Basel’s run to the quarter-finals of the Europa League last season was an oasis of success in a disappointing few years in Europe for Swiss clubs, so Young Boys will be aiming to upset the odds once again and emulate that achievement.


This is already their best run in Europe for more than 30 years, whereas opponents Ajax are much more familiar with the latter stages of these competitions, reaching the final of the Europa League in 2017 of course.


The Amsterdammers are also looking good for another domestic title, sitting six points clear in the Eredivisie after a draw with PSV on Sunday.


That means it’s all set for a clash between two teams desperate for European success. Ajax will be favourites, but Young Boys have already shown that they can surprise.


Dynamo Kyiv v Villarreal


Europa League specialist Unai Emery was brought into Villarreal specifically for that reason, to deliver success on the continental stage.


The Yellow Submarine have enjoyed a seamless progression to this point, easing through Group I unbeaten before beating the dangerous Salzburg 4-1 on aggregate.


With Gerard Moreno, one of the best strikers in Spain, back on top form, Villarreal can have serious ambitions of winning this tournament as they look to end their semi-final hoodoo.


Dynamo Kyiv came out on top of a tight clash with Club Brugge in the previous round and sit four points ahead of Shakhtar as they look for a first league title in five seasons.


Perhaps most notably, Ukraine is one of the few countries in Europe allowing fans into grounds at the moment, so there is sure to be a noisy atmosphere for the first leg of this one which could unnerve Villarreal a touch.


Granada v Molde


This is a meeting between two sides in unprecedented territory. Molde are in the last 16 of a UEFA competition for the first time in their history, while Granada have had a sensational first season in Europe.


The Andalusians negotiated a tricky qualifying campaign that included trips to Durrës and Malmö, before coming through a tough Group E, finishing above PAOK.


Their most impressive result, however, came in the home leg in the last round against Napoli, which was enough for a 3-2 aggregate victory.


On paper, this is a great chance for Granada to continue their dream debut in Europe and reach the last eight, but Molde are no pushovers.


The Norwegians got all the way to the Champions League play-offs in the autumn, losing out to Ferencváros on away goals, but have impressed in the Europa League, particularly in that brilliant victory over Hoffenheim.


Molde are still in their pre-season due to the Eliteserien campaign taking place in the summer, so it will be intriguing so this how this one plays out between two refreshing new names.