The first leg of the Europa League semi-finals will be played on Thursday evening (7 pm GMT). Manchester United-AS Roma and Villarreal-Arsenal are the fixtures. And in each of the teams, there are African internationals eager to succeed the Moroccan trio of Sevilla, winners last season: Yassine Bounou, Munir El Hadadi and Youcef En-Nesri.
The first leg of the Champions League semi-finals on Wednesday saw an African international shine. Algerian's Ryad Mahrez scored a malicious free-kick to give Manchester City a 1-2 lead in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals. The left-footed Fennec thus took another step towards winning the African Player of the Year award for the second time, following his success in 2016.
In tonight's Europa League semi-finals (first leg), there is a chance to see another player from the continent shine on the European stage. Arsenal have four internationals in their ranks: Ghanaian Thomas Partey, Egyptian Mohamed El Neny, Ivorian Nicolas Pépé and Gabonese Pierre Emerick Aubameyang. The latter has already scored three goals and provided one assist in six Europa League games this season. He is also the all-time leading African scorer in the competition's finals with 22 goals in 41 games.
This season, however, it is his team-mate Nicolas Pépé who has shone the brightest in the division. Inconsistent on the English pitch, the Ivorian is transcendent on the European stage. The left winger has found the net 5 times and offered 4 goals this season alone. He will therefore be a great asset for the Gunners tonight. As will Ghanaian midfielder Thomas Partey, who won the competition in 2018 with Atletico Madrid.
Chukwueze, Unai Emery's lethal weapon
Watch out, however, for Arsenal, who face Villarreal under their former coach Unai Emery. The Spanish coach is the ultimate specialist in this competition. He has won it three times with Sevilla and led Arsenal to the Europa League final two years ago. In his squad, he has a Nigerian poison named Samuel Chukwueze. The 21-year-old has only scored one goal but is an elusive sprinter who gives any defense a run for its money.
Finally, in the other game, there will be two Ivorians facing a Guinean. Indeed, Manchester United has in its squad the defender Eric Bailly, winner of the Europa League in 2017 with the Red Devils. But also the young Amad Diallo. The 18-year-old striker, who arrived from Atalanta Bergamo in January, scored his only goal for United in this competition.
AS Roma, on their part, have Amadou Diawara. The Syli maestro has played in nine C3 matches this season. The Italian club also has three young Africans in its squad who have yet to make an appearance: Gambian Ebrima Darboe (19), Senegalese Lamine Tall (19) and Ivorian Mory Bamba (18).
Manchester United vs AS Roma 7 pm
Villarreal vs Arsenal 7 pm