The UEFA Europa League is a competition that gets a lot of stick, but the last-32 of the tournament did plenty to endear itself to the watching soccer stratosphere. And the draw for the last-16 of the tournament has stirred anticipation once again, with some intriguing ties plucked out of the hat in Nyon, Switzerland earlier today.
With a spot in the UEFA Champions League at stake next season, there are a lot more teams taking this competition seriously. And as illustrated by Atletico Madrid—who won this competition in 2010 and 2012—this is a tournament that can entrench a winning mentality in the dressing room, providing a platform for further successes.
Here’s the draw in full for the second round of knockout matches and a closer look at some of the most intriguing ties, as the 16 remaining sides look set to continue their march towards the Warsaw final.
Europa League – Last-16 Draw
Everton vs. Dynamo Kyiv
Dnipro vs. Ajax
Zenit vs. Torino
Wolfsburg vs. Inter
Villarreal vs. Sevilla
Napoli vs. Dinamo Moskva
Club Brugge vs. Besiktas
Fiorentina vs. Roma
Here are previews of 3 of the intriguing matches:
Everton vs. Dynamo Kyiv
After a comprehensive 7-2 aggregate victory over Young Boys in the last-32 of the competition, Everton remain the sole British representatives in this season’s Europa League. And they’ll be hoping to continue their run in the tournament with a very winnable tie against Dynamo Kyiv.
The Ukrainian outfit do boast some fine individual talent, however. The likes of Miguel Veloso, Jeremain Lens and Aleksandar Dragovic are all excellent players that form a very solid-looking spine. But they’re a team that have been pretty poor in their matches on the road and that’s something the Toffees must look to capitalize on.
With the first game set to be played at Goodison Park, Everton will know that it’s vital to take a lead into what will be a very difficult second-leg. But while Roberto Martinez’s side have resembled a ponderous group of players in domestic action, the Toffees haven’t found goals hard to come by in continental clashes.
The supporters certainly won’t relish an away trip to war-torn Ukraine, but from a purely footballing perspective this is a tie that the Toffees are more than capable of winning and subsequently continuing their European adventure.
Wolfsburg vs. Internazionale
While the German outfit were somewhat inconsistent during the group stages of this competition, since the winter break they’ve been magnificent. Consequentially, their clash with Italian giants Internazionale should be one of the standout matches of the last-16.
Roberto Mancini has actually been getting things together as of late at the San Siro. In Serie A, they’ve won three successive games and their performances against Celtic in the previous round certainly boded well for a prosperous run in this competition. The club’s January signings—Xherdan Shaqiri in particular—are also starting to flourish.
There’s a reason that Wolfsburg are the bookmakers’ favorites for this title, though. In Kevin De Bruyne they have one of European soccer’s outstanding young playmakers, while Bas Dost is a center-forward who has really found his groove in the Bundesliga as of late. They can mix it with the very best too, as was obvious in their recent 4-1 hammering of Bayern Munich.
Inter will feel that they’re capable of causing an upset if they can preserve their current sparkling form, but the Nerazzurri are a team that are notoriously inconsistent. As such, Wolfsburg should just have enough to squeak past the Italian giants and into the last eight of the competition,
Villarreal vs. Sevilla
Reigning champions Sevilla have a stellar reputation in this competition having won it three times in recent seasons and they’ll be looking to retain the trophy for the second time in their history. But they’ll face an intriguing challenge when they come up against domestic rivals Villarreal, who are having quite the campaign themselves.
While Marcelino’s men haven’t been in inconsistent form as of late, for the majority of the season they’ve been extremely impressive. The “Yellow Submarine” have mixed defensive cohesion and attacking flair admirably for the most part, boasting all the requisite attributes needed to go far in the Europa League.
But Sevilla are streetwise when it comes to the latter stages of this tournament. Unai Emery is a manager who knows how to set teams up in order to get one-off results and in Carlos Bacca the Andalusians have one of the most dangerous front-men in the entire competition.
Having won this tournament last season confidence will be sky-high in the Sevilla camp and the incentive of retaining this title for the second time in their history should spur them on. A clash with their domestic rivals should make for a very tight encounter, but one in which the holders should just about scrape through.
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