Milos Degenek and Mat Ryan set for 'massive' Europa League match-ups

Socceroos duo Milos Degenek and Mat Ryan are preparing to test themselves on the continental stage in a couple of huge Europa League Round of 32 clashes on Friday morning (AEDT).

Degenek's Red Star Belgrade will host AC Milan, while Ryan is in strong contention for his second Arsenal appearance when the North London club meet Benfica. 

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The Rossoneri travelling to Serbia sets up Degenek with a surreal match-up against legendary striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 

Degenek is no stranger to being faced with tall orders in Europe, having come up against three recent UEFA Champions League finalists in the form of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Tottenham over the last few years.  


Yet even after marking the likes of Mohammed Salah, Harry Kane and Robert Lewandowski in recent times, the Socceroos defender is excited by the prospect of coming up against a player with the immense aura that Zlatan commands. 

“I really love the guy," Degenek told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“I love him as a footballer, I love his character, I love his motivation, I love the way he speaks about himself, I love the way he contributes to the team and pushes others to move forward and be better. He’s one of a kind." 

His physique, his awareness, his goal scoring – it’s pretty much everything. He’s unbelievable. It’s just ridiculous how good he is. I’ve played against some of the world’s best and it’s something I’ll be able to tell my kids one day, and talk to my friends and family about.”


Degenek admits he will have his work cut out when it comes to marking the evergreen striker man-on-man. 

“It’s a massive challenge," he said. "You can’t do much.”

“In my vision, it’s just be strong – not let him hold onto you, because he’s definitely stronger than I am, and he’s bigger.

“I have to use my pace and my brain to get in front or just be a bit smarter in situations where I can get isolated with him. I have to be very intelligent with how I go along with those things. I have to do a lot of preparing in the next few days to be 100 per cent set and ready for the game.”

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Meanwhile, Maty Ryan's Arsenal are preparing to kick off their first leg clash with Portuguese outfit Benfica on neutral soil. 

The ongoing coronavirus situation in Europe means that Rome will host Mikel Arteta's side as they look to make their mark on the European stage. 

Maty Ryan

The Arsenal manager is keeping his cards close to his chest as to which side he selects, however if recent trends are anything to go by, the club's rotation of goalkeepers for Europa League matches is a promising sign for Ryan. 

The Socceroos goalkeeper has made one appearance for the Gunners since joining on loan from Brighton in January. While he impressed between the sticks during a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa, Arsenal fans will be hoping for a more positive result this time around.  

Degenek's Red Star kick off at 4:55am before Ryan's Arsenal take to the pitch at 7am (AEDT). 

READ: The Arsenal legend that inspired Mat Ryan to support the Gunners

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READ: 'It's still a bit surreal': The Tim Cahill call that sparked Maty Ryan's Arsenal move