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Friday, 20 March 2015

Who’s leading charge for the Europa League

All the headlines were made today by the draw for the quarter-final stage of the Champions League but that was not the only draw this morning, the last eight for the Europa League was also drawn and has thrown up some cracking fixtures. With the Europa League being relatively unpredictable heres a look at who the favourites for the competition are going into the quarter-final stage.

Europa League Quarter-final draw
Sevilla FC v Zenit
Club Brugge KV v FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
FC Dynamo Kyiv v ACF Fiorentina
VfL Wolfsburg v SSC Napoli


The Bundesliga outfit are the bookies favourite for the competition after coming through the last round with a 5-2 aggregate win over Italian side Inter Milan, their reward; another Italian side, this time Napoli in what is to be a mouthwatering clash.

Dieter Hecking’s side have rightly been installed as favourites for the competition based on their current form, they sit in 2nd place in the league 11 points behind Munich but 9 clear of 3rd placed Monchengladbach. Their recent form even includes a 4-1 win against German giants Bayern Munich. The quality in the side is undisputed, top scorer Bas Dost has been called up to the Netherlands side thanks to his great form while former Chelsea man Kevin De Bruyne has been fantastic for the German side.

Despite being given the hardest draw they Wolfsburg look to have the strongest squad left in the competition and are justifiably favourites.

It would be a good bet to say the winner of the Wolfsburg and Napoli tie may well go on to win the tournament. Rafa Benitez’s side have a huge chance of winning the Europa League, a trophy Benitez has already won with Chelsea in 2013 and in its old form with Valencia in 2004. Benitez is a cup specialist and with him at the helm Napoli have to be considered serious contenders for the crown.

They overcame Dinamo Moscow in the last round and like their quarter-final opponents Wolfsburg they are a star studded team with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain who has scored 6 goals in the competition, former Swansea man Jonathan De Guzman who has 4 goals and Slovak Marek Hamsik the pick of the squad. As with Wolfsburg, Napoli have lost just one game in this season's Europa League and will be full of confidence they can go all the way.

Last years winners Sevilla have made it to the quarter final stage yet again and will be looking to lift the trophy for the fourth time this May. Unai Emery’s side have not been in the best vein of form domestically, sitting 5th as they battle for a Champions League spot, but the experience of winning the competition last season gives them a slight edge on their opponents.

Their squad is maybe not as strong as some of the others but is still capable of at least reaching the final, their game against Zenit will be huge and will really test their credentials.

The four best teams in the competition look to have been drawn against each other and Zenit being one of those have the tough task of facing defending champions Sevilla. The Russian side under Andre Villas Boas dropped down to the Europa League after a poor showing in the Champions League and will be hoping to make amends by going all the way in Europe’s second tier competition.

Zenit posses some of the best players left in the competition on their day but the temperamental attitude of Hulk, Witsel and Danny makes it hard to know which Zenit will turn up. One huge advantage for AVB’s side is the fear all sides have of visiting Russia, no team likes playing away against hugely intimidating Russian supporters and that gives them an edge. Whether or not they can go all the way is hard to say but if they play to their best every game they have a big chance.

The rest:
After overcoming Roma, Fiorentina have to be considered a threat especially with the draw they were given but they just don't look to have enough quality to win the competition. All the others could spring a surprise but it is unlikely and you can expect one of the four listed favourites will walk away with the trophy on the 27th of May in Warsaw.