On March 15th, we witnessed the quarter-final and semi-final Europa League draws both taking place at the same time, which revealed which teams will have to face against each other on their road to Baku.
It started with 32 teams, and now we are left with only 8, who fought their way to the quarterfinals. With only 8 teams remaining the picture of who could potentially end up winning the whole tournament becomes clearer, but there are still some matches, which seem just too close to call out a winner just yet. So, let’s check out the Europa League quarter-final pairs, the teams that are left in the competition and who do we expect has the best chance to win it all.
Benfica (POR) v Eintracht Frankfurt (GER)
Neither of the two sides had an easy road to quarterfinals, and to be fair neither will have an easy time in quarterfinals either. Benfica climbed their way to the quarterfinals after defeating Galatasaray in 1/16 finals and Dinamo Zagreb in 1/8 finals after a spectacular performance in the 2nd leg extra time. On the other side, Eintracht Frankfurt had to deal with Shakhtar Donetsk in 1/16 finals and Inter Milan in 1/8 finals, who they managed to defeat in Italy, which is that more impressive.
– Benfica and Eintracht Frankfurt have never played against each other before.
– Luka Jović has been a big part of Eintracht Frankfurt success this season. As of now, he scored 21 goals in all competitions in addition to scoring the game-winning goal against Inter Milan. But he is currently on a two-season loan from Benfica to Eintracht Frankfurt, so he will have to play against his own team.
– Haris Seferovic on the other side, was Eintracht Frankfurt player from 2014 till 2017 before he moved to Benfica.
Slavia Praha (CZE) v Chelsea (ENG)
One of the biggest underdogs, Slavia Praha climbed to the quarterfinals after defeating Genk in 1/16 finals (4:1) and Sevilla (6:5) in 1/8 finals after entertaining show in Prague, when we saw 3 goals scored in the extra time.
On the other side, we have the English giants, Chelsea, who dealt with their opponents in the Europa League campaign with relative ease. In the 1/16 finals, they were faced off against Malmo, who they defeated (1:5). The 1/8 finals opponents, Dynamo Kyiv were also no match for Sarri and his men who managed to win both legs with high margin, thus advancing into the quarterfinals with an aggregate score of (0:8).
– Slavia Praha and Chelsea have not played against each other before
– Chelsea historically has an easy time against Czech opponents. As of now, they hold a 3-3-0 record against Czech teams.
– Miroslav Stoch played in Chelsea in 2006 till 2009, however, he was never a part of the starting IX.
Napoli (ITA) v Arsenal (ENG)
This pair is without a doubt the most anticipated one, with two of the top teams from their country face off against each other in quarterfinals.
Looking at Arsenal road to quarterfinals, they had an easy time against BATE in 1/6 finals (1:3), however, they nearly got knocked out of the competition by Rennes in the 1/8 finals who made them work hard for a promotion into the next round. Napoli, much like Arsenal had an easy time in 1/16 finals when they got paired with Zurich, but got close to losing it all in the 1/8 finals, when they had to face off against Red Bull Salzburg (3:4).
– The 2013 Champions League was the last time these two sides played against each other. Both teams recorded a 2:0 home win.
– Chelsea and Arsenal won’t be able to play at home on the same night. Because both teams are to play at home in the same week, Arsenal’s tie will be reversed. That means that the first leg will be played in London
– Carlo Ancelotti, the Napoli coach was Chelsea manager from 2009 to 2011. In his time at Chelsea, he managed to hold a good record against Arsenal (3-0-1)
Villarreal (ESP) v Valencia (ESP)
Rarely do we see teams from the same country paired against each other in European competitions, however seeing two rivals paired with each other is something that is not only extremely rare but also highly anticipated. This ended up happening in the 4th Europa League pair, which put Villarreal and Valencia against each other. Villarreal had to deal with Sporting in the 1/16 finals (1:2) and Zenit Petersburg in 1/8 finals (5:2), both of which failed to cause many problems Spanish side. On the other side we have got Valencia, who defeated Celtics in the 1/16 finals with an aggregate score of 0:3, however, they did not have such an easy time against Krasnodar in 1/8 finals, where they had to work hard to advance into the next stage (2:3).
– The match between Villarreal and Valencia are also known as Derbi de la Comunitat
– Teams home stadiums are only separated by 60km
– The last time these two sides met in Europa League competition was in semi-finals in 2004 when it was Valencia who won with a 1:0 aggregate score and advanced into finals. This was also the year Valencia won the Europa League after defeating Marseille in the finals (2:0).
Looking at the four pairs, there are three which will be highly entertaining to watch. First of all, we have got a highly entertaining derby between Valencia and Villarreal on the menu. The Derbi de la Comunitat will as always provide us with entertaining football and euphoric fans and it’s a match I will not want to miss. Then there is the Napoli vs Arsenal fixture, which could just as well be the “finals before the finals”, being that two of the favourites to win it all go against each other prematurely. And of course, there is a match between Benfica and Eintracht Frankfurt, which could easily prove to be the most entertaining one out of the four. Both teams were the underdogs to go far into the competition, which only adds to the value of the fixture. And lastly the match between Chelsea and Slavia Prague, which will see the favourite to win the Europa League go against the least likely team to win it all. But if we learned anything from watching football, we know the ball is round and anything can happen.
Despite numerous possibilities, the favourites to win the Europa League are clear: Chelsea, Napoli or Arsenal. As of now, bookmakers put Chelsea at the top of favourites with odds of 2.79 offered on the outright market. Behind Chelsea, we have got Napoli with 4.80 odds offered and Arsenal at 3rd place with 5.67. The remaining odds are listed below;
While it’s true Chelsea has statistically the easiest road to the finals, I believe the odds offered on them to win it all are just too low. On the other side, I believe odds on Arsenal are too high, as they are in my eyes the favourites to win the title.