Data drop: Everything you need to know about the Europa League round of 16

The Europa League round of 16 is set to be as thrilling as ever.

Ahead of some tantalising match-ups, we’ve enlisted the help of the Twenty3 Toolbox to analyse the prevailing narratives in each fixture.

Sporting vs Atalanta (Wednesday 6th March, 17:45)

These two sides met in the group stage and Atalanta got the better of their Portuguese opposition, winning away and drawing at home. 

The Italian side are resolute at the back, winning 55.17 defensive duels per 90 — the second-most in the competition. 

Despite previous results, Sporting will fancy their chances of emerging as winners from this tie. 

The Portuguese side have completed 131 dribbles, the fifth-most in the competition so far.

Viktor Gyökeres could be the difference-maker — the striker has scored five goals in the Europa League this season; only four players have managed more.

Qarabag vs Bayer Leverkusen (Thursday 7th March, 17:45)

Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen are enjoying a superb season and will be strong favourites to beat Qarabag in their last 16 tie.

This is another clash between two sides that also met in the group stage — perhaps unsurprisingly, the German outfit won 5-1 at home and 1-0 in Azerbaijan.

Xabi Alonso’s side have scored at a remarkable rate of 3.17 goals per 90 in the Europa League, so a monumental defensive effort will be required from Qarabag. 

Victor Boniface is Leverkusen’s most likely source, with four goals in the competition so far. Florian Wirtz is also a creative outlet, with four assists to his name.

Leverkusen are on the hunt for a historic treble and this tie could well be a formality.

Roma vs Brighton (Thursday 7th March, 17:45)

The meeting of Brighton and Italian giants Roma is certainly one of the most eye-catching match-ups of the last 16. 

The Seagulls’ first venture in Europe has been a massive success so far. Roberto De Zerbi’s side topped Group B ahead of former European Cup winners Marseille and Ajax. 

Despite their lack of European pedigree, Brighton will be quietly confident, especially with the all-important second leg at the Amex. 

João Pedro has been in superb form in the Europa League, scoring six goals. Roma will be relieved that he is absent with an injury for the first leg. 

I Giallorossi parted ways with Jose Mourinho in January and his replacement Daniele De Rossi managed to guide his team past Feyenoord in the playoffs, albeit on penalties. 

Romelu Lukaku and Paulo Dybala are more than capable of hurting Brighton on the counter-attack in what could be an intriguing tactical battle and a vintage European tie.

Sparta Prague vs Liverpool  (Thursday 7th March, 17:45)

Liverpool, after lifting the Carabao Cup, can win four trophies this term. Sparta Prague will be out to end any hopes of a quadruple, but the Czech side will have their work cut out.. 

The Reds seem determined to give Jurgen Klopp the perfect send off in Dublin. 

Despite losing twice in the group stage, there was never any doubt about Liverpool’s progression into the last 16. 

Klopp’s side have won the most attacking duels per 90 (96.33) in the competition and completed the second-most dribbles per 90 (21.67).

Benfica vs Rangers (Thursday 7th March, 20:00)

Benfica, the reigning Portuguese champions, face in-form Rangers in one of the most interesting match-ups of the round. 

Roger Schmidt’s side should be one of the contenders to go all the way, having dropped down from the Champions League after finishing below Real Sociedad and Inter in their group. 

Benfica only narrowly squeezed past Toulouse in the round of 32 but will be favourites to beat Rangers. 

However, Philippe Clement’s side will be full of confidence after winning Group C ahead of Sparta Prague, Real Betis and Aris Limassol.

Amid the absence of their Europa League top scorer Abdallah Sima (three), Gers will be looking towards 14-goal forward Cyriel Dessers to make the difference.

Marseille vs Villarreal (Thursday 7th March, 20:00)

Marseille’s clash with Villarreal is one of the hardest ties to predict. 

Both sides will be hoping to make up for inconsistent league campaigns with a strong Europa League run. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s rich vein of form could give Marseille the edge. 

The striker has the most goals in this year’s competition (seven) and now, incredibly, the most in Europa League history (31). 

Villarreal do not possess as much firepower but can rely on a strong defensive unit — they kept two valuable cleans sheets during the group stage and head into the first leg off the back of an emphatic 5-1 LaLiga win over Granada.

AC Milan vs Slavia Prague (Thursday 7th March. 20:00)

AC Milan will be disappointed to have dropped down from the Champions League but will be confident they can go far in Europe’s second competition. 

The Rossoneri will be expected to make light work of Slavia Prague in pursuit of their first ever Europa League trophy. 

But the Czech outfit could prove tricky opposition given their impressive run so far. 

Slavia Prague finished top of Group G, ahead of Roma, and only conceded four goals. 

Despite that commendable record, Milan should have too much firepower at their disposal, with the likes of Rafael Leão, Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud capable of producing match-winning moments.

Freiburg vs West Ham United (Thursday 7th March. 20:00)

West Ham now have serious European pedigree after winning the Europa Conference League last year and reaching the Europa League semi-final before that. 

The Hammers will be expected to progress to the quarter-finals given they beat Freiburg home and away in the group stage.

David Moyes’ side have only conceded four goals so far and finished comfortably top of Group A.

Despite scoring a relatively modest ten goals so far, West Ham have been adventurous in possession — completing 134.33 forward passes per 90. 

A lot of West Ham’s creativity will flow through the influential Lucas Paquetá, who has only recently returned from injury.

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