Ranking the Remaining Teams in the Europe League Last 16
Quietly slipping into second gear, the Europa League moved into its last 16 stage last night, as interest begins to peak.
Shock of the last round probably goes to Viktoria Plzen who destroyed Napoli—second in Italy's Serie A—5-0 on aggregate over the two legs.
Liverpool fell short of a remarkable turnaround against Zenit St Petersburg, but Steaua Bucharest managed to overcome a 2-0 first leg defeat to beat Ajax on penalties.
The constituents of the next round are made up of 11 different nations: England and Russia boast three representatives, Italy two and no other country more than one.
Each side already knows who they will face in the next round, so that will play some part in the following rankings...
16. Steaua Bucharest
Left-back Iasmin Latovlevici scored in normal time and then dispatched the winning penalty, as Steaua Bucharest toppled Ajax.
Trailing 2-0 from the leg in Holland, the Romanians recorded a 2-0 win of their own on Thursday night, before advancing 4-2 on penalties.
Despite being top of the Romanian league by 10 points, they'll face Chelsea next as heavy underdogs.
15. FC Basel 1893
FC Basel ended Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk's Europa League challenge with a 1-1 draw in Ukraine, as both sides ended with 10 men.
The Swiss side had done the damage in the first leg, though, winning 2-0 when Dnipro visited last week.
Ukrainian opposition will become Russian in the next round. Basel face a tricky tie against 2008 winners Zenit St Petersburg.
14. Viktoria Plzen
Given the nature of their glorious, unexpected win against Napoli, it seems unfair to have Viktoria Plzen so low.
Thursday's 2-0 win at home seemed almost routine when compared to their remarkable 3-0 win it Italy last week.
Top of the Czech league by two points, they'll provide a tough challenge to Fenerbahce, but despite their heroics, they will still be second favorites in the tie.
13. Newcastle United
Alan Pardew was grateful for the heroics of his goalkeeper Tim Krul, as Newcastle advanced past Metalist Kharkiv in Ukraine on Thursday night.
Shola Ameobi's second-half penalty was the only difference between the sides following a goalless first leg in England.
Next up? Samuel Eto'o, Anzhi Makhachkala and their millions.
Bordeaux, France's lone representation in the competition, advanced past Dynamo Kiev—completing a hat-trick of exits of Ukrainian sides.
Thursday night's 1-0 win—they won 2-1 on aggregate—was their 10th straight win at home in Europe, but it was built on defensive foundations.
They're hardly setting Ligue 1 on fire, though, sitting ninth in the table, and will face an uphill battle to get past Benfica for a quarterfinal spot.
While German sides enjoy success in the Champions League, this week Stuttgart became the only side left carrying the flag for the country in the Europa League.
As Hannover and Borussia Monchengladbach fell, Stuttgart knocked Belgium's last European hopeful, since KRC Genk tumbled.
They are two places below Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga and now face their conquerors, Lazio, in the next round.
Five of the last 10 winners of the Europa League have come from La Liga. It now rests solely at the feet of Levante to improve that stat.
They made a mockery of an Olympiakos side who are 16 points clear at the top of the Greek league, with Juan Ignacio Martinez masterminding a 4-0 aggregate win against the side managed by Spaniard Michel.
They'll have to do what Atletico Madrid, second in La Liga, couldn't do to advance to the quarterfinals, though—beat Rubin Kazan over two legs.
9. Rubin Kazan
The first of three Russian sides still left in the Europa League, Rubin Kazan put out the fire of the 2010 and 2012 winners, Atletico Madrid, in one foul swoop.
Last week was when the damage was done. Rubin won 2-0 at Atleti's "fortress," the Vicente Calderon.
Radamel Falcao's late strike wasn't enough for the Spanish side on Thursday night, and the Russians face another Spanish side, Levante, in the next round.
Lagging six points behind Galatasaray in the Turkish League, Fenerbahce only just did enough to overcome BATE Borisov on Thursday night.
Christian's penalty was the difference over 180 minutes, as the Belorussian side were made hard work of.
Fenerbahce will have to perform better if they have desires of overcoming Napoli's conquerors, Viktoria Plzen, in the next round.
Lazio's 3-3 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach was one of the best fixtures in the last 32, although the Italians will be in preference of Thursday night's 2-0 win which saw them advance.
Vladimir Petkovic's side's hopes in the competition may depend on how quickly German striker, Miroslav Klose can return to fitness.
In the meantime, they will be favorites against Stuttgart in the last 16.
6. Zenit St Petersburg
When Hulk put Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 up at Anfield, they looked to be sailing through to the last 16 following their 2-0 win in Russia.
Two Luis Suarez and one Joe Allen goals later and Liverpool had Zenit hanging on in the competition by the skin of their teeth.
The 2008 winners saw the job through, though, and will hope for an easier passage against FC Basel next.
5. Inter Milan
Inter enter the last 16 having had as easy of a passage as they could have hoped for against CFR Cluj, who occupy fifth place in the Romanian league.
The Italians progressed 5-0 over the two legs, and although not the Inter of recent years, they will still be heavily fancied.
In the next round things get trickier. They face Tottenham Hotspur of England, in what looks the pick of the ties.
4. Tottenham Hotspur
Having beaten French side Lyon in a close encounter, Tottenham will have hoped for a more relaxed tie in the last 16.
Inter Milan will be unlikely to provide that relaxation, though.
Gareth Bale scored two in the first leg against Lyon, and the Welshman is arguably the best player left in a competition that Andre Villas Boas appears to have designs on.
After falling out of the Champions League, Benfica advanced in the Europa League at the expense of 1988 winners Bayer Leverkusen on Thursday night.
Players like Rodrigo Moreno and Oscar Cardozo make them one of the more feared teams left in the tournament.
Only goal difference keeps them and Porto apart at the top of the Portuguese division, and they should be too strong for Bordeaux in the next round.
2. Anzhi Makhachkala
Two Russian sides have won the Europa League in the last eight years, and with the money which has been at his disposal, Guus Hiddink should be aiming to replicate Zenit St Petersburg and CSKA Moscow's achievements.
German side Hannover were beaten easily enough in the last 32. Anzhi advanced 4-2 on aggregate.
For a place in the quarterfinal they will have to overcome a Newcastle United side struggling at the wrong end of the Premier League.
It may not have been evident as Chelsea stuttered to a 2-1 aggregate win over Sparta Prague, but they are European champions.
Last season's Champions League winners find themselves in the unlikely position of attempting to follow it up with Europe's second choice competition.
They had to rely on Eden Hazard to dodge extra time on Thursday night, but should see off Steaua Bucharest in the next round.