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Europa League: Falcao-chasing Aubameyang needs to be decisive for rampant Barcelona

3:03 PM GMT+8 07/04/2022
Barcelona's Pierre Emerick Aubameyang 2021-22
The Barca frontman could move even closer to the iconic Colombian if he flourishes in Frankfurt

Pedri has unquestionably dominated column inches lately, but so should Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has taken to life at Barcelona like a duck to water.

The aforementioned men were decisive for Xavi Hernandez’s team in the last round, scoring one each as the Spanish giants advanced at Galatasaray’s expense.

While the Gabon superstar’s goal paled in comparison to the midfielder’s strike that demonstrated the wunderkind’s skill and precision, the importance of the striker’s second was untold.

It set up a meeting with Thursday’s opponents and taking his tally to three for the season is not Aubameyang’s only ambition against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Edging ever closer to Radamel Falcao is no mean feat but Auba’s two strikes in the Europa League since switching from Arsenal to the Camp Nou mean he has moved from joint-fifth to joint-third in the competition’s all-time scorers list with 24 goals altogether.

Score another at Frankfurt and the ex-Arsenal frontman moves ahead of Munas Dabbur (24 goals), leaving him one behind Athletic Club icon Aritz Aduriz and only five back of Falcao. With Barca in such scoring form, the in-form marksman ought to believe he can equal the former Atletico Madrid marksman.

Of course, any likelihood of Auba matching or even supplanting the competition’s all-time top scorer this term will be enhanced if Barca's progress in Europe’s secondary club competition continues.

The La Liga giants have been rampant since the January transfer window ended, averaging 2.67 goals in their last 12 games in all competitions. In the previous 12 under the club legend, that average was 1.5 goals a game.

The arrival from Arsenal has netted nine goals in that time (10 if you include total goal involvements) and another in Barcelona and Frankfurt’s first-ever competitive meeting will take him closer to Falcao.

With Barca unlikely to play in this competition next year — unless they bungle a top-four spot in the Spanish top-flight or make a mess in next year’s Champions League group stage — this season could be the 32-year-old’s last chance of catching El Tigre.

Benrahma vs Toko Ekambi will be all shades of fun

Peter Bosz confirming Karl Toko Ekambi’s recovery from illness on Wednesday was music to the ears of every Olympique Lyon supporter.

The Cameroon forward missed OL’s rip-roaring 3-2 success over Angers but should be fit enough to face ambitious West Ham United in London.

“He will be in London. Karl Toko Ekambi is no longer sick,” Bosz declared in Wednesday’s press conference. “I haven’t talked to him but I would do it tonight. He trained at home so we'll see if he's in good shape. I would talk to him tonight.”

Of course, the competition’s top scorers (18 goals) know their way to goal with or without the Indomitable Lion, but they would be pleased to have this year’s top scorer (six goals) and joint-top goal contributor (eight goals plus assists) back in the side for a daunting trip to the London Stadium.

While they may be struggling in mid-table in Ligue 1, Les Gones are flying in Europe and are interestingly one of two sides that started the competition to remain unbeaten, a record they share with Frankfurt.

No side outranks Lyon’s tally of 10 goals on their travels, although West Ham’s concession of only one goal on their turf means something has to give on Thursday night.

Said Benrahma has netted only half of Toko Ekambi’s return in this year’s competition, but the Algeria attacker will back himself to score a fourth in the quarter-final first leg.

He remains the Hammers’ top scorer this year despite not scoring since a brace at Genk on matchday four of the group stage, perhaps an upshot of his infrequent starts.

David Moyes did play Benrahma from the off in West Ham’s tremendous showing to knockout Sevilla in the last 16, and the Algerian will hope for more of the same as the Premier League side battle to secure a fourth home win in this year’s tournament.

Both sides probably will not make next season’s Champions League via their respective leagues, which adds to their desire to reign supreme in Seville next month.

London Stadium, under the lights. West Ham vs Lyon will be fun.

Rangers’ Nigerian contingent need a response in Braga

Calvin Bassey had an eventful Old Firm derby against Celtic on Sunday.

The versatile defender was involved in the move that led to Aaron Ramsey opening the scoring but was at times caught on his heels defensively, evidenced by the away side’s equaliser and the move that almost saw Liel Abada increase the visitors’ advantage in the feisty 2-1 defeat.

The ‘Gers are six points adrift of their rivals but Bassey has called on his teammates to cast that disappointment aside when they travel to Sporting Braga.

“You could see on the pitch that we weren’t happy (with defeat by Celtic),” the Super Eagle admitted, “we’ve just got to put it behind us and move forward.”

“It’s important for us to go out there and give nothing less than 110 percent to try and get a result and put a smile back on the faces of our fans.”

Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun ought to play in some capacity against a young Braga side as they look to replicate the impressive eliminations of Borussia Dortmund and Red Star in the playoff round and last 16 respectively, against the Portuguese outfit.

This is the Scottish club’s best showing in the competition since reaching the 2008 final, so the ambition to make it to Seville has to drive Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s troops.