This draw is very enigmatic and a bit heart-wrenching for me.
On one side, Athletic Bilbao. The Basques are in their best season in a while, in Spain. They're sixth, behind the superpowers Barcelona and Real Madrid, and just eliminated the Red Devils. Bilbao put on a clinic both at the Old Trafford and in the San Mamés.
What is most astonishing to me, is that this team is succeeding with Cantera policy. This is their policy of only allowing Basque players in their team. With wonderkid Iker Muniain, hitman Fernando Llorente and under maestro Javi Martinez, the Basques are laying waste to everyone in the Europa League.
All of this aside, I'm happy that their coach, Marcelo Bielsa is enjoying success at a continental stage after two World Cup failures with Argentina and Chile. Bielsa, called El Loco (the Mad Man) in South America, is winning games setting his squad forward and playing at a quick pace. Bielsa deserves this good moment.
On the other side, FC Schalke 04. Schalke, much like Bilbao, has one of the most hapless pasts in soccer history. Their last Bundesliga title is more than 50 years old and, in the last decade alone, they have fallen short several times, once losing the title on the season's final match.
After a pitiful season last year, Schalke is back with a vengeance in the Bundesliga and in the Europa League. With Timo Hildebrand surprising at goal, Raul and his high football IQ have been running defenses ragged and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has been scoring goals galore seemingly out of nowhere.
With Schalke playing a tight, simple game at defense, it might be hard for Bilbao to display their flamboyant style. Also, Raul and Huntelaar will be ready to pounce on every chance they get. This battle has everything to be the best draw in the year. I'm expecting fireworks or two dull games but, the first option a lot more likely.
This draw is one of the most even in the competition but, again, I'll have to tip it towards the Spaniards, I mean, the Basques.