Europa League Round of 16 Preview: Newcastle, Chelsea head east; Spurs host Inter

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europa league

europa league

Shakhtar Donetsk was brushed aside by Borussia Dortmund as a 10-man Manchester United conceded two goals within ten minutes of the sending off. Celtic did not cause much trouble for Juventus while PSG’s two away goals were too much to cope for Valencia and the final four fixtures of the Champions League Round of 16 will be played next week.

In the Europa League, the remaining participants are preparing to play the first leg of their respective Round of 16 ties. The 16 participants come from 11 nationalities – three from England and Russia, two from Italy and one club each from eight UEFA nations.

Europa League: Key Facts

Out of the eight teams that were transferred to Europa from the Champions League, only three are still in contention: Chelsea, Benfica and Zenit St. Petersburg.

The reigning champions, Atletico Madrid, were dumped out of the competition by Rubin Kazan which means there are only three clubs that have appeared in this stage of the tournament before. Rubin made it to the round of 16 in 2009/10, Zenit in 2010/11 and Benfica reached the quarterfinals in 2009/10 and then the semifinals in 2010/11.

However, only Chelsea, Inter Milan, Benfica and Steaua Bucuresti have previously won the European Cup. But there are also the four Inter-Cities Fairs Cup winners in the running: Zenit, Lazio, Tottenham and Newcastle United – the competition is not backed by UEFA though.

Spurs’ boss Andre Villas-Boas is looking to become the first coach to lift the Europa League trophy twice. It was his successful campaign with Porto in 2010/11 that attracted Roman Abramovich and subsequently, he joined Chelsea. When Chelsea won the Champions League with Roberto Di Matteo, AVB had spent the first half of the season at the helm.

Chelsea manager, Rafael Benitez, won the UEFA Cup with Valencia in 2004; Benitez also won the European Champion Club’s Cup with Liverpool in 2005. Additionally, Guus Hiddink’s PSV Eindhoven also won the Champion Club’s Cup in 1988 – Hiddink is currently coaching Anzhi Makhachkala.

Europa League: Round of 16 Matches

Here is the matches to be played in the Round of 16 of the Europa League:

Anzhi Makhachkala v Newcastle United

Steaua Bucuresti v Chelsea

VfB Stuttgart v Lazio

Viktoria Plzen v Fenerbahce

Tottenham Hotspur v Internazionale Milan

SL Benfica v Girondins de Bordeaux

FC Basel v Zenit St. Petersburg

Levante v Rubin Kazan

Lets take a look at the match previews of the Premier League teams:

Steaua Bucuresti v Chelsea

Round of 16, Europa League
Arena Nationala, Bucharest, Romania
Thursday, 7th March, 2013
19:00 CET
Referee: Sergei Karasev (Russia)

Having eliminated the hosts of the final in the Round of 32, Steaua Bucuresti will be looking to take another major European giant down as reigning Champions League winners head east.

Steaua Preview

Steaua’s success against Ajax in the Round of 32 was the first knockout tie since the advent of the Europa League to be decided on penalties. They were also the only team to go through to the last 16 after having lost the first leg. They have, however, conceded more goals than any other in the group stages (11).

Chelsea Preview

Chelsea have played the least UEFA Cup/Europa League games than any other side left in the competition (10) – a record equalled by Levante.

This is their first time playing the Europa and this could be the first time for any club to win UEFA’s top club competitions in reverse order in successive seasons. They could also become the third side to win all three of UEFA’s major competitions after Ajax, Bayern Munich and Juventus.

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Steaua v Chelsea

The sides are meeting for the first time. Steaua’s record against English sides is not all that bad (W4 D4 L6) but they have not won in their last five encounters – home and away.

Chelsea has only faced Romanian opposition on two occasions. Both came in their 2008/09 Champions League campaign when they drew 0-0 away and won 2-1 at home against CFR Cluj in the group stages.

If selected, it will be Juan Mata’s 50th UEFA club appearance and if Chelsea scores, it will be their 300th goal in UEFA competitions.

Rafa, has been in charge of 132 UEFA games – more than any other coach in this season’s Round of 16 and his most recent Europa League experience came in 2009/10 with Liverpool, when he led the Reds to the semifinal.

Prediction: Steaua 0-2 Chelsea

Tottenham Hotspur v Internazionale Milan

Round of 16, Europa League
White Hart Lane, London, England
Thursday, 7th March, 2013
21:05 CET
Referee: Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain)

Spurs fans will be hoping for a repeat of one of the most famous nights in the club’s recent history as Inter return to White Hart Lane for the first leg of their Round of 16 tie.

Tottenham Preview

Tottenham has a fairly even record in their last nine encounters with Italian side (W3 D4 L2) and three of those draws came in their last three meeting – all ending 0-0.

They are one of the two sides to still be unbeaten in this season’s Europa League, the other being their group-mates Lazio. And along with Rubin Kazan, they are the only survivors from the seven club that were granted automatic entry to the competition.

Inter Milan Preview

Inter has faced English opposition on 26 occasions and their results have almost always been decisive (W12 D4 L10).

They have won five of their six away games in Europe this season and scored three goals on four of those wins. Out of the remaining sides, Inter have the highest goal tally with 16 goals – they share this record with Viktoria Plzen.

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Tottenham v Inter

Inter was being led by Rafael Benitez and Tottenham by Harry Redknapp when the two sides met in the 2010/11 Champions League group stage. Inter scored four first half goals at San Siro only to concede a hat-trick by Gareth Bale.

In the return leg, it was again Bale who made the Italians suffer – although he did not score himself.

Both teams are managed by young managers but unlike Inter’s Andrea Stramaccioni, AVB has tasted European glory before. His Porto side managed a domestic double and a UEFA Cup win in 2010/11 which instigated an ill-fated move to Chelsea, before he settled at Tottenham in July 2012.

Remember, this is the first time Inter are playing in this competition since 2003/04, when they lost out to Marseille in the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Spurs 2-0 Inter

Anzhi Makhachkala v Newcastle United

Round of 16, Europa League
Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia
Thursday, 7th March, 2013
18:00 CET
Referee: Istvan Vad (Hungary)

Although due to security reasons, Anzhi will play hosts in the Luzhniki Stadium instead of their regular Dynamo Stadium but they will look to maintain their 100% record on Russian soil as Newcastle visit Moscow for the first time.

Anzhi Preview

Anzhi have won all seven of their European home games and conceded their first UEFA goal in Russia in their 3-1 win over Hannover 96 in the Round of 32.

Their only home defeat in Europe to date came all the way back in 2001/02 – a 1-0 loss to Scotland’s Rangers. That game was played in a neutral venue in Warsaw, Poland due to the political situation in Chechnya, which neighbours Anzhi’s native Dagestan.

Newcastle Preview

Newcastle have made it to the Round of 16 despite scoring at an average of just one a game (8) – unsurprisingly the lowest tally of all the contenders. Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Metalist Kharkiv ended their run of five away games without a win in Europe (D3 L2).

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Anzhi v Newcastle

This is the first time the Magpies are facing a Russian opposition but Liverpool was the first English opponent Anzhi faced earlier in the group stage this season – both sides registered a 1-0 home win.

Anzhi may come well-prepared for an English opposition as they have three personnel in their ranks who have personal experience of English football: Lassana Diarra (Chelsea, Arsenal & Portsmouth), Yuri Zhirkov (Chelsea) and the manager Guus Hiddink had a brief spell at Stamford Bridge in 2009 (he led his Chelsea side to a 2-0 Premier League win at Newcastle).

However, this is the first time Anzhi have reached the last 16 of a European tournament and Newcastle are at this stage for the fifth time.

Prediction: Anzhi 1-0 Newcastle

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