Thanks to football’s COVID-19-enforced hiatus, the 2019/20 Europa League is always on.
It’s so endless, the draw for the qualifying stages of next season’s competition has already taken place. The Wolves’ run to the quarterfinals began more than a year ago.
Before we find out who will come out on top when Gibraltar’s mighty Lincoln Red Imps take on Kosovo’s even more formidable Pristina, the winners of the current competition need to be crowned.
Everything will be decided next week in a mini, World Cup-style tournament in Germany, and in 90 minutes it’s all about how everything will turn out.
Sergio Romero has been preferred to David De Gea in the Europa League so far/Michael Regan/Getty Images
Manchester United v Copenhagen action kicks off in Cologne on Monday. It follows on from a 2009 Champions League group stage tie but with both clubs’ stocks having fallen considerably in recent times, they will have to settle for a meeting in Europe’s second-tier club competition.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be desperate for a win and are likely to pull out all the stops against the Danish giants. It won’t be an easy task but the Red Devils’ full strength must find a way to progress.
Next, it’s the tie of the round – Inter vs Bayer Leverkusen. Two sides with attacking talent, although you get the feeling that Peter Bosz’s side will have the best chance of lifting some European silverware in some time, with Kai Havertz on the way out. It’s going to be tough but after finishing the Serie A season in flying form, Antonio Conte’s side are favourites.
Inter beat Getafe in the round of 16 earlier this month / Lars Baron/Getty Images
From the standout game of the quarter-finals to the ugly duckling, Shakhtar Donetsk vs Basel is unlikely to attract a large television audience outside of Ukraine and Switzerland. Shakhtar once again won their domestic league at a canter this season while their opponents failed, eventually finishing third.
As well as leading the form table, the Ukrainian side also have a very superior squad and should dispatch FCB quite comfortably. You never know with one-off games though.
Finally, Wolves – who opened their Europa League campaign against Belfast-based Crusaders a year ago – face the tough task of playing against competition specialists Sevilla. The La Liga side have won the Europa League a record five times but Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have all the tools needed to make it a great night.
Manchester United vs Copenhagen – The development of Manchester United
Inter vs Bayer Leverkusen – Inter development
Shakhtar Donetsk vs Basel – Shakhtar Donetsk progress
Wolves vs Sevilla – Development of Wolves
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may be heading home from Germany in disappointment/Pool/Getty Images
Then here we are. Hypothetical Final Four. Things are really starting to heat up!
Kicking things off on Sunday August 16, it’s an all-Premier League tie that’s bound to make you finally care about a competition you’ve been ignoring all season. In the red corner, clear favorite United. In the Amber Corner, a Wolves team is running on fumes as their never-ending 2019/20 campaign finally comes to an end.
You know? This pack of wolves is a special group. Who are we to bet against them accomplishing a couple more miracles before their limbs collapse from exhaustion? Expect die-hard Liverpool fan Conor Cody to play a key role in eliminating the Red Devils. You know, just adding insult to injury.
Wolves bond in an emotional moment after their win against Olympiacos in the Round of 16 / Sam Bagnall – AMA/Getty Images
Who will they end up facing, we hear you ask?
Well, as much as Inter would love to bottle up a good chance of winning silverware, as much as Antonio Conte’s record in Europe is embarrassingly poor and as much as Shakhtar’s Brazilian side, Football Manager Regens will be a tough test, the Nerazzurri might Development
Manchester United vs Wolves – Development of Wolves
Inter vs Shakhtar Donetsk – Inter development
Inter will lift the trophy later this month… most likely / Valerie Heche/Getty Images
Next, we’re backing Inter to take on Wolves in the 2020 Europa League in Cologne on August 21.
This is bound to be an interesting strategic battle. In fact, we’re already picturing football hipsters salivating at the thought of Nuno vs Conte – a back three battle. Spine-tingling stuff indeed.
In terms of result, it’s hard to see beyond Inter but Wolves can certainly cause them some problems. The thought of facing Adama Traver is bound to give Ashley Young nightmares and the battle for supremacy between the four wing-backs will usually be key.
Nevertheless, we are supporting Inter to work. The silverware should be enough for Conte to stave off the threat of redundancy for a second season and successfully challenge a dwindling Juventus for the Scudetto during the 2020/21 campaign.