A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Thursday:
Cristiano Ronaldo pushed for a move away from Manchester United in the transfer window so he could play for a team in the Champions League. After failing to secure a transfer, he’ll have to get used to playing in Europe’s second-tier competition for the first time since 2002 with Sporting Lisbon. Indeed, the Europa League might be Ronaldo’s likeliest route to substantial game time at United this season. He is in line for a recall to United’s team for its opening group match against Real Sociedad after being a substitute for the last four Premier League games. United manager Erik ten Hag is likely to start his fringe players in the match at Old Trafford and that is what Ronaldo and club captain Harry Maguire have become after making big changes following the team’s woeful start to the season. Sociedad’s team could include David Silva, who was a long-time star of Manchester City. Arsenal is England’s other big hope in the competition and the Premier League leaders start off at Zurich. Roma visits Bulgarian club Ludogorets with center forward Tammy Abraham expected to be on the bench because of a shoulder issue. With Feyenoord visiting Lazio, Italian authorities have banned the Dutch club’s fans from traveling to Rome after its supporters clashed with police and damaged a historic fountain during a 2015 trip to face Roma.
EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE
Villarreal was in the Champions League semifinals four months ago but plays this time in the third-tier Europa Conference League after finishing seventh in Spain last season. Villarreal coach Unai Emery will try to add the European competition to his four career Europa League titles, and the path begins at home against Lech Poznan. In the second edition of the Europa Conference, teams from Kosovo, Liechtenstein and Lithuania will give their countries a first-ever representative in the group stage of a UEFA competition. Ballkani hosts Cluj, Vaduz is at home against Apollon Limassol and Žalgiris is at Slovan Bratislava. Ukrainian team Dnipro-1 hosts AZ Alkmaar at Košice in neighboring Slovakia. West Ham hosts FCSB — the Romanian club which won the 1986 European Cup as Steaua Bucharest — and Fiorentina is at home against Latvian champion RFS. Coming off a draw with Juventus, Fiorentina is expected to use its reserves and a crowd of only about 10,000 is expected in the 43,000-seat Stadio Artemio Franchi. The Viola’s only major international trophy was the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1961.
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