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There were some dominant displays and some fantastic comebacks in the second leg of the Europa League round of 16 and with the quarter-final draw having been made, who is likely to progress to the semi-finals?
Premier League club Chelsea have been made the favourites to be crowned the UEFA Europa League winner at odds of 7/4, with fellow English side Arsenal third favourites at 7/2. English teams have often struggled to juggle performing well in the Europa League and on the domestic front, so it makes for a refreshing change to see both London-based clubs fighting for European honours and for fourth place in the Premier League.
Here, we take a look at the most likely candidates to progress to the semi-finals of the Europa League.
The Italian club are the second favourites to win the Europa League, but were drawn against Arsenal, which, although great for the neutral, is arguably a tie both sides would have rather avoided. Napoli edged past Austrian club RB Salzburg in a 4-3 aggregate victory, while Arsenal fought back valiantly against French side Rennes to also claim a 4-3 aggregate win.
Napoli narrowly missed out on progressing to the second round of the Champions League, and since entering the Europa League, having won three of their four matches, their only blip being the 3-1 loss away to Salzburg.
Arsenal on the other hand have shown inconsistent form this season. Their home form has been something to admire, with the club having only lost three and drawn three in all competitions this season, winning the other 19 games. Their away form, in contrast, has been less impressive, with the Gunners winning nine, drawing four, and losing seven. This inconsistent form could be their undoing.
Napoli will no doubt try to capitalise on their inconsistent away form by punishing them in the second leg, but they will also need to be wary not to be caught out by Arsenal’s incredible home form.
Their dominant display away to Dynamo Kiev has helped to propel Chelsea to the top of the Europa League betting odds. They won 8-0 on aggregate, 3-0 at home and 5-0 away, and so it is perfectly understandable that Chelsea would be backed to win it.
They got arguably the easiest draw in the form of Slavia Prague, however, the Czech side’s 4-3 extra time victory at home to Sevilla gave them a shock 6-5 win on aggregate and saw one of the favourites knocked out. A warning that they should not be underestimated.
Chelsea are looking good in Europe, even if they’re lacking conviction in their domestic fixtures. In theory, Chelsea should progress, but that will depend largely on the result of the first leg in Prague. A loss by one goal is the worst result that should still see them through; but anything worse than that and questions will definitely be asked.
The all-Spanish tie saw Valencia drawn with Villarreal, and this game is likely to produce some very interesting results. In the league, Valencia drew away 0-0 with Villarreal in September and then battered them 3-0 at the Mestalla in January.
Villarreal are just above the relegation zone, but their form in Europe has been completely different, with El Submarino Amarillo having not lost a single game in this season’s Europa League.
Valencia have hardly shone this season, with Els Taronges sitting in 7th in the league, having drawn a whopping 16 games in the league this campaign. Valencia’s European adventure began in the Champions League, but they finished third in their group behind Juventus and Manchester United.
In the Europa League, they are undefeated, winning three of their knockout round matches and drawing one other. If Villarreal bring their domestic form to the all-Spanish tie, then expect Valencia to progress, but if both bring their European form, don’t be surprised if someone advances on away goals or via a penalty shootout.