Amsterdam is renowned as the hot bed of European football and the Amsterdam Arena will provide a fantastic opportunity for some of the competition’s finest to lift the trophy. With the Europa League final potentially only five games away, the clubs left in the competition know that they all have a realistic chance of becoming European Champions albeit not as exclusive as the Champions League. Recent winners Athletico Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Zenit St Petersburg and FC Porto have gone on to bigger and better things, so the platform is there for one of the eight teams to really raise their game and become one of Europe’s best.
Chelsea FC V FC Rubin Kazan
Current Champions League holders Chelsea face the somewhat unknown in Rubin Kazan. The two time Russian champions currently lie 6th in their domestic league and have done well so far to knock out the Spanish duo of Atheltico Madrid and Levante. Chelsea will know not to underestimate the Russian side as a trip to Kazan in the 2nd leg will prove to be a difficult encounter for the West London Club, proven by their trip to Bucharest last time out. Chelsea overcame Romanian opposition in the last round and they will be hoping to progress further as they face hotly talked about Bibras Natcho and Salomon Rondon this time round.
The cultured Israeli international has been in fine form this season calculating 7 goals in 21 appearences for the Russian side. The deep playmaker has really caught the eye over the last couple of seasons and Chelsea will have to take him out of the game to stop the attacking force of Rubin
The Spanish attacking midfielder has had a standout year for Chelsea this season and is arguable one of the most dynamic players across the continent. The midfielder has the ability to turn the tie on its head and without the ineligible Demba Ba for the rest of the competition, Chelsea will be sure to lean on the Spaniard for an attacking threat.
Over two legs you have to fancy the English side but I don’t think they will have it all their own way. Kurban Berdyev will have an organised outfit in both legs as they look to carry the flag for Russia in the last eight. With plenty of attacking options on show, expect both teams to really give the two ties a go.
Tottenham Hotspur FC V FC Basel 1893
Tottenham Hotspur relied on the away goals rule to knock out Inter Milan in the last round to face surprise package FC Basel in the last eight of the Europa League. The Swiss team beat Russian side Zenit St Petersburg who were fancied for the trophy previous to their encounter. A steady Europa League campaign has seen this club progress through against some difficult opposition. Basel will be looking to inflict misery on Spurs and this team should not be underestimated in their fight for the trophy.
Can you look past this man? The absolute real deal this season and the Spurs winger will be looking to bring the trophy to White Hart Lane this season. Pace, Power and Precision is what Bale has in abundance and the talented Welshman can provide the difference over two legs.
The Swiss born front man has had one of his most prolific seasons in front of goal for Basel. Four goals in his last seven Europa League games has helped his side in reaching this stage of the competition. FC Basel will need his fire power to continue if they have any ambition of reaching the last four of this completion.
Tottenham are one of the favourites for the competition, priced at 9/4 with Paddy Power and will be relying on their player of the year Gareth Bale if they have any ambitions to qualify for the semi-finals. Spurs will fancy their chances to get through to the next round and this tie was probably the best outcome out of all the English sides.
Fenerbahce SK V S.S Lazio
Two of the teams to avoid in this round of the competition were drawn together in a game that will provide one of the most intriguing match ups in this year’s competition. Two ultra-partisan supporters will have to make do with only one ground full as Lazio are facing a full stadium ban in the return leg after Uefa charged their supporters with offences of a racist nature for the third time this season. The Turkish side will be looking to rediscover some form in this competition as a disappointing draw at home in the last round could offer the visitors the opportunity some success. Lazio on the other hand has been one of the form teams in this season’s competition with a comprehensive beating of German side Stuttgart.
Sow joins a host of attacking threats that this Fenerbahce squad has to operate. The Senegalese front man is a deadly force in front of goal but has struggled to convert his domestic form into the latter stages of this compettion. With only 1 goal to show for so far, Sow will be hoping to rediscover his form that aided his move from French Side Lille in 2012.
Hernanes has been an attacking threat ever since his arrival from Sao Paolo back in 2010. He is fundamentally one of Lazio’s key men in bringing home the trophy and will provide service to the front men of Libor Kozak and Miroslav Klose.
A two legged affair that will provide plenty of flare for the neutrals, my gut feeling says Lazio just, but Fener will be looking to match or better the run of rivals Galatasaray in the Champions League. Very competitive tie, but Lazio to run out winners and continue their prominent form in this season’s competition.
SL Benfica V Newcastle United FC
A great tie for both sides who will fancy their chances of progressing to the semi-finals of the competition. Benfica have been formidable in both domestic and European games this season by knocking out Bordeaux in the last round. Newcastle on the other hand beat well fancied Anzhi in the last round thanks to a dramatic Papiss Cisse winner. Both teams will have the intention of doing even better in this competition and with the finish line in sight the opportunity is there to progress. Newcastle have progressed to this stage having kept eight out of 12 clean sheets so far.
This guy is an absolute goal machine with 16 goals in his 18 league games this season. The talented front man has two wonderful feet who knows exactly where the goal is. It will be up to Newcastle’s defenders to stop the Paraguayan from reaping havoc once again.
The Geordie favourite has had one of his best spells for Newcastle since he arrived on the scene under Sir Bobby Robson. The no nonsense centre half has finally been selected for England International duty and will be looking to carry his form forward when the two sides meet in April.
Benfica are one of the better sides left in the competition and have just enough to get through, the first leg will paint the picture as Newcastle will need to bring something back from Lisbon if they are to face any change of progression. A cracking tie lies ahead and I am looking forward to watching both games. Benfica have a fantastic attacking line up and this could prove the difference over the two legs.
Three out of the eight remaining sides are based in England and there is a great desire for all to get through to the semi-finals. With some strong teams left in the competition there is a case for all the teams to win the trophy come May.
An all English final is priced at 5/2 with Sky Bet.