UEFA Europa League 2013: Third-Round Second Leg Matchups Fans Won't Want to Miss

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2013

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - MARCH 07:  Fernando Torres of Chelsea goes past Cornel Rapa of FC Steaua during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 match between FC Steaua Bucuresti and Chelsea at the National Arena on March 7, 2013 in Bucharest, Romania.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Sixteen clubs are still alive in the 2012-13 UEFA Europa League, but time is quickly running out as only eight teams will advance to the quarterfinals following this coming Thursday's third-round second leg clashes.

Reigning UEFA Champions League winner Chelsea is in danger of being eliminated in front of its home supporters, while three-time Europa League champion Inter Milan is still alive to win a record fourth league title.

Below we'll look ahead to a trio of pivotal second leg clashes football fans won't want to miss.

 

Inter Milan vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Thursday, March 14 at 2 p.m. ET

Two of Europe's top clubs will square off this coming week in Italy, as Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur face off in the second leg of their third-round Europa League matchup. Inter has some serious work to do following its 3-0 defeat at White Hart Lane.

Spurs will feature two of the best scorers on the planet in Gareth Bale (who scored in the first leg) and Jermain Defoe. Both have combined for six goals in UEFA Europa League play in 2012-13. The 23-year-old Bale is one of the emerging superstars in the English Premier League and ranks third in the EPL in scoring with 16 goals in 25 appearances.

On the other side, Rodrigo Palacio, Marko Livaja and Fredy Guarin are names to remember for Inter. All three stars have combined for 15 Europa League goals this season, and Colombian midfielder Guarin has even chipped in five assists over that time. 

Not only does this match have huge implications, but it has star power.

 

Chelsea vs. Steaua Bucuresti, Thursday, March 14 at 4:05 p.m. ET

Rafael Benitez's Blues have some serious work to do on Thursday as they get set to host Romanian club Steaua Bucuresti at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea fell 1-0 in Bucharest in the first leg thanks to a first-half penalty score from Steaua's Raul Rusescu.

It's safe to say that Chelsea will need more from the likes of Fernando Torres, Juan Mata and company if it hopes to advance to the Europa League quarterfinals.

Steaua may not enjoy the worldwide recognition that Chelsea does, but it's just 90 minutes away from knocking off the English football powerhouse and moving one round closer to claiming the club's first UEFA Europa League crown.

 

Newcastle United vs. Anzhi Makhachkala, Thursday, March 14 at 4:05 p.m. ET

Newcastle and Anzhi played to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their third-round clash in Moscow. But something's got to give on Thursday at St. James' Park, where the Magpies will be welcomed by a sea of supporters.

Keep an eye on veteran striker Shola Ameobi, who has three goals for Newcastle in Europa League play this season. Ameobi came on late as a substitute in the first leg draw, but could see more time on the pitch in the two clubs' upcoming showdown.

For Anzhi, Samuel Eto'o will be the player to watch. The 31-year-old Cameroon native fired five shots in the draw at Moscow and has seven goals in 12 Russian Premier League appearances this season.

If the visitors are able to break through against Alan Pardew's side, the aggressive Eto'o will most likely be the culprit.

 

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