Europa League: Predicting the Winners of Each Quarter-Final

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterApril 3, 2013

Europa League: Predicting the Winners of Each Quarter-Final

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    The UEFA Europa League fixtures, taking place the day after the UEFA Champions League finishes for the week, provide us with a steady return to normality after two scintillating nights of football.

    The quarter-finals are upon us and some tasty ties beckon, so let's get an early read on who's being favoured to qualify.

    Read on for predicted winners, previews and key players. 

Benfica vs. Newcastle United

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    Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. ET

    Winner: Benfica

    Key players: Nemanja Matic, Yohan Cabaye

    Newcastle United have done incredibly well to get this far in the competition, but no one's giving them a chance against the Eagles.

    Why? It's not because the Magpies are a bad side, it's just that Benfica are the favourites to win the tournament in aficionados' circles.

    Jorge Jesus has unlocked the potential in his side just in time for the second half of the season, and had the likes of Ola John been performing at a high level four months previous, progression in the UEFA Champions League would have been a distinct possibility.

    Alan Pardew must have one eye on survival again after the gap between Newcastle and Aston Villa fell to just three points.

Chelsea vs. Rubin Kazan

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    Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. ET

    Winner: Rubin Kazan

    Key players: Eden Hazard, Salomon Rondon

    Chelsea came through a tough examination by Steaua land another horrific tie against Rubin Kazan.

    The Russian outfit are playing well in the domestic league, have knocked out Atletico Madrid in Europe and rarely concede goals.

    They're an incredibly defensive outfit who love to grind out games, while striker Rondon has the all-round capability to win it for them. Rubin are favoured to win here, but that's largely down to Chelsea's other commitments.

    The Blues are in the middle of playing eight games in under 25 days, and with UEFA Champions League qualification the obvious priority, how much attention will Rafa Benitez pay this competition?

    Is it worth the effort, the exertion and the air miles? 

Fenerbahce vs. Lazio

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    Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. ET

    Winner: Lazio

    Key players: Libor Kozak, Dirk Kuyt

    Lazio have been steamrolling opposition on the back of Libor Kozak's almighty goal tally during this year's competition, and Fenerbahce will have to be at their very best to stem the flow.

    Turkey is a traditionally tough place to go, but Lazio have netted three at Borussia Park and two at the Mercedes-Benz Arena—what's to prevent them heading into this tie with optimum confidence?

    After a three-game losing streak in March's rounds of Serie A, the Biancocelesti have fallen off the pace domestically but will see this competition as a genuine chance at a trophy.

    Fener, meanwhile, are embroiled in a title chase with fellow superpowers Besiktas and Galatasaray. Could this be seen as a distraction by Mehmet Ozdilek? 

Tottenham Hotspur vs. FC Basel

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    Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. ET

    Winner: Tottenham Hotspur

    Key players: Gareth Bale, Alexander Frei

    Basel will be frustrated that, heading into the biggest game of their season so far, they are without four of their first-choice players.

    Raul Bobadilla is cup-tied while Park Joo-Ho, Philipp Degen and Marcelo Diaz are suspended, leaving manager Murat Yakin with limited options.

    On the other hand, Spurs come fresh off an impressive win at Swansea and welcome Gareth Bale back into the side after he missed the Inter Milan bout at San Siro.

    Andre Villas-Boas knows his team were paired with the weakest side in the tournament and will instruct his boys to finish the tie at White Hart Lane.