Silverware beckons in the last eight of the Europa League | inside World Soccer

Silverware beckons in the last eight of the Europa League

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

With the Europa League down to the last eight teams and a number of bigger sides being eliminated, glory is just three rounds away (with Valencia and Atletico Madrid leading the Europa League odds market).

With Valencia the only remaining club that have come down from the Champions League this term, the other seven have been through a long campaign, and will look to get rewards for their hard work.

Alkmaar vs. Valencia

Current Eredivisie leaders AZ host Spanish giants Valencia, with both clubs able to go all the way this year. The Dutch side lead their domestic league by one point, and have matured as a team this term, beating Anderlecht and Udinese to get to this stage. Gertjan Verbeek's men have an array of young talents including Rasmus Elm, Adam Maher and Jozy Altidore, who will look to lead their team to the semi-finals.

Valencia were eliminated from the Champions League by Chelsea, but with both Manchester clubs out of the Europa League, will be one of the favourites for the crown. Unai Emery's side have quality throughout, none more so than Roberto Soldado; the Spain international is one of the form strikers in Europe. However, the Mestalla, usually a fortress, has shackled Los Che in 2012, with recent disappointing defeats at home.

Schalke vs. Athletic Bilbao

The most interesting and high-quality tie of the round, Schalke and Athletic Bilbao are both playing well and eager for silverware. Schalke have replicated their Champions League heroics from last term in 2011/12, and beat Twente convincingly in the last round. Klass-Jan Huntelaar has been in clinical form this year for both club and country, and may be the difference between the teams.

Bilbao have been rejuvenated under Marcelo Bielsa, pushing for a top four finish in La Liga and reaching the Spanish Cup final. On the continent, the Basque side were excellent in beating Manchester United 5-3 on aggregate in the last round, winning both legs. Fernando Llorente, Iker Munian and Javi Martinez are superstars waiting to burst onto the Euro 2012 scene.

Sporting Lisbon vs. Metalist Kharkiv

Two of the underdogs of the tournament, Sporting Lisbon and Metalist have exceeded expectations and now must be respected as potential challengers. The Portuguese side pulled together to overcome star-studded Manchester City in the last round, with Sa Pinto's men showing great dedication in both legs. Ricky van Wolfswinkel has countless suitors across Europe, and the Netherlands international striker will look to continue his good form to ensure involvement Euro 2012.

Ukraine's third-placed side Metalist have proved to be a tough European competitor over recent years, and have done well again this season to overcome the likes of Olympiakos and Sochaux. The eastern European side have brought in a number of Argentinean players, but their main man is home-grown hero Andriy Vorobey.

Atletico Madrid vs. Hannover

2010's Europa League winners Atletico Madrid are eager to replicate their heroics of two years ago, but will have to overcome Hannover to do so. The Vicente Calderon team have been a difficult opponent since Diego Simeone took over from Gregorio Manzano, with the capital-city side boasting a strong defensive record and a lethal marksman in the form of Radamel Falcao.

Hannover have enjoyed their venture into European competition this term, and have beaten some seasoned sides such as Standard Liege and Club Brugge. Currently eighth in the Bundesliga, the AWD Arena club have not been able to reach the heady heights of last season - they finished fourth - but boast a solid home record and will be no pushovers.
Copyright © 2016. inside World Soccer | Privacy Policy
Design by Herdiansyah Hamzah & Distributed by Free Blogger Templates
Creative Commons License