Fenerbahce vs. Benfica: Date, Time, Live Stream and Preview
UEFA Europa League action continues on Thursday as the final four clubs begin the semifinal stage.
While Thursday's action will be highlighted by a matchup pitting English powerhouse Chelsea up against Basel, there will be plenty to watch for in the other semifinal clash, which will see Benfica take on Fenerbahce in Istanbul.
Fenerbahce disposed of Lazio in the quarterfinals to reach the club's first-ever major continental semifinal while the Eagles took out Newcastle United in the quarters, advancing 4-2 on aggregate.
Neither club has lost a Europa League match since the start of 2013 and both Fenerbahce and Benfica are 2-0-1 at home and on the road respectively since the beginning of the new year, setting the stage for an epic semifinal showdown.
Here we'll get you set with everything you need to know for Thursday's first leg.
Where: Sukru Saracoglu Stadium, Instanbul
When: Thursday, April 25 at 3:05 p.m. ET
Live Stream: FOXSoccer2Go
Fenerbahce Player to Watch: Dirk Kuyt
2012-13 UEFA Europa League Stats: 11 appearances, three goals and one assist
Fenerbahce forward Dirk Kuyt will be the player to watch for the home side on Thursday. At age 32, Kuyt has certainly lost a bit of the mojo that made him so lethal at Liverpool from 2006-12, but he's still a talented goalscorer nonetheless.
Kuyt has three goals in UEFA Europa League action this season and scored in Fenerbahce's last home victory over Lazio in the first leg of its quarterfinal tie.
There won't be a harder working player on the pitch on Thursday than the Dutchman. Kuyt is excellent at creating scoring chances, even if they aren't always pretty, and he should do well to get others involved.
Benfica Player to Watch: Oscar Cardozo
2012-13 UEFA Europa League Stats: Six appearances and four goals
On the other side of the pitch, Benfica's Oscar Cardozo will be the man to watch for manager Jorge Jesus' visitors.
Cardozo has started four UEFA Europa League matches and come off the bench in two others this season. He leads the club with four goals over that time. The 29-year-old striker has also been remarkably efficient for Benfica, taking advantage of each and every chance to score.
Having scored over 150 goals since joining the club in 2007, Fenerbahce must account for Cardozo on Thursday in order to avoid letting in a costly goal at home.
Which side will win Thursday's semifinal match?
These are two evenly matched clubs playing with a whole lot at stake, but Fenerbahce will be backed by a crowd of supporters in Istanbul.
Though you should look for Dirk Kuyt and Co. to produce a goal for manager Aykut Kocaman's side at home on Thursday in front of those fans, expect Benfica to match as they have all season long. The Portuguese side is the only club that's yet to drop a match in UEFA Euorpa League play this year.
This match could go either way, but I'm anticipating Benfica will have the slight advantage on aggregate heading into next month's second-leg showdown in Portugal.
Benfica has had tremendous success against Fenerbahce in the past, winning 7-1 on aggregate in the two clubs' last meeting in European competition, and so long as it can earn a hard-fought draw on Thursday, it'll be on its way to forging a spot in the final with a solid performance at home next month.
Score: Fenerbahce 1, Benfica 1
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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