UEFA Europa League: Biggest Storylines to Watch for in Quarterfinal Action

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UEFA Europa League: Biggest Storylines to Watch for in Quarterfinal Action
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With the UEFA Champions League dominating the headlines at the moment, the Europa League will soon take center stage with its quarterfinal matchups.

Thursday sees four brilliant games take place as eight teams battle it out for the chance at further silverware this year. And for most, this is their only remaining chance at a trophy, so there's certainly plenty of pressure and expectation on these matches.

Other than the trophy, there are plenty of big storylines to keep an eye out for in this week's matches as the eight teams duke it out for European glory.

Read on to see the biggest storylines in the Europa League this week. 

EuroFootball/Getty Images

 

UEFA Europa League: Quarterfinal Schedule

Benfica vs. Newcastle United—Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. ET

Chelsea vs. Rubin Kazan—Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. ET

Fenerbahce vs. Lazio—Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. ET

Tottenham Hotspur vs. FC Basel—Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. ET

 

 

Biggest Story Lines to Watch For

 

How Will Chelsea Perform at Home?

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Despite playing relatively simple opponents, Chelsea have struggled in the Europa League so far—particularly when playing away from home.

Two ties so far this season have seen the Blues play the away leg first (and struggle), before finishing strong at home to win the tie on aggregate.

However this time, they play at home first, and they'll need to get off to a good start in front of their home fans before they play away on the road.

Their two respective home games in the Europa League have been far from convincing, and with two fixtures already played since the weekend, the West London club may opt to rest some players here—making for another potential upset on the night.

The Blues should win, but it certainly isn't a guarantee given their form in the Europa League this year and their likelihood of resting players.

 

 

Can Benfica Continue Their Incredible Success?

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They really haven't had a great deal of notoriety, but Benfica has been simply phenomenal in world football this year—losing just three games all year.

And given that one of those came against Barcelona and the other came in Russia in December, it's fairly safe to say that the Portuguese side has been nothing short of incredible in 2012-13.

Since moving to the Europa League from the Champions League, Benfica has been very strong in beating two very good teams.

They won both games against Bayer Leverkusen and then both games against Bordeaux, and appear likely to continue that winning streak here.

Newcastle has played well on the road so far, but with a number of players missing from this one, the visitors will struggle to contain the Portuguese side at home.

Surely Benfica will continue its incredible season with another win.

 

 

Who Can Stop Gareth Bale?

Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Having already saved Tottenham in the Europa League this year, Gareth Bale will again take the field this week full of confidence in his ability.

Which, given what the 23-year-old winger has been able to achieve this season, is pretty understandable and justified.

Since Tottenham's last-second draw against Manchester United on January 20, Bale has netted 11 goals and four assists in his last 11 club games. 

The only game in which he didn't score was against Liverpool, where the Spurs lost 3-2 thanks to some brain-snaps by the London club's defense.

Perhaps most interesting has been the significance of his goals, with Tottenham only winning one game in that time by more than one goal. 

His past three Europa League games have produced three goals and two assists, and was perhaps the only reason why the Spurs got past Ajax.

Look for Bale again to be key for the Spurs as they seek to build a lead at home over FC Basel—something that they should do relatively comfortably.

 

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