The second leg of the 2013-14 Europa League Round of 16 is about to get underway, bringing us a full slate of top-level European football when competition resumes on Thursday.
Title favourites such as Juventus and Napoli face elimination, with both teams in need of a big result to progress to the quarter-finals. S.L. Benfica and Lyon on the other hand put together excellent performances last week and look set to cruise into the next round.
ESPN, BT Sport 1 and ITV 4 will cover six games in total, with full mobile coverage available thanks to the ESPN Player, BT Sport app and ITV Mobile app respectively. All mobile apps will require a subscription.
|Time (GMT)||Home||Away||Prediction||TV Info|
|17:00||Anzhi Makhachkala (0)||AZ Alkmaar (1)||1-1||N/A|
|18:00||Benfica (3)||Tottenham (1)||2-0||ITV 4|
|18:00||Fiorentina (1)||Juventus (1)||0-2||BT Sport1|
|18:00||Valencia (3)||Ludogorets Razgrad (0)||3-1||ESPN|
|18:00||Victoria Plzen (1)||Lyon (4)||2-2||N/A|
|20:05||Napoli (0)||FC Porto (1)||2-2||ITV 4|
|20:05||Real Betis (2)||Sevilla (0)||1-3||BT Sport 1|
|20:05||SV Salzburg (0)||FC Basel (0)||2-1||ESPN|
AZ Alkmaar will travel to Russia on a one-goal advantage to take on Anzhi at the Anzhi-Arena. The hosts have endured a disappointing domestic campaign in 2014, the result of drastic cost-cutting moves by owner Suleyman Kerimov.
With any hopes of a successful Russian Premier League campaign all but gone, the team has been able to focus on the EL with some success, easily dispatching of Belgian side Racing Genk in the previous round.
Similarly, AZ currently sit in seventh place on the Dutch Eredivisie table and the weekend loss to Twente has the team fighting for one of the European slots for next season.
As reported by the club's official Twitter feed, AZ coach Dick Advocaat will be forced to follow the game from the stands following a suspension as the coach jokingly asked a club reporter "not to tell anyone he planned on using pigeons to communicate" (tweet translated by the author).
Benfica easily defeated an underwhelming Spurs team in London and will be looking to complete the job in Lisbon. Last year's finalists look to be in great position to do even better this season, and coach Jorge Jesus has his team playing excellent football, as evidenced by the great result in last week's match against Tottenham.
Lilywhites coach Tim Sherwood had several clashes with Benfica's Jesus during last week's tie, and as shared by BT Sport's Dan Kelly, his team's performance might have had something to do with that:
Sherwood furious when Benfica manager held up three fingers to indicate number of consecutive passes Spurs have managed all night. #putrid— Danny Kelly (@dannykellywords) March 13, 2014
The Spurs just lost a heartbreaker to rivals Arsenal and have lost five of their last seven games across all competitions, so a miracle comeback against one of the strongest teams remaining in the competition seems unlikely.
Fiorentina managed to come away with a 1-1 draw against rivals Juventus thanks to a strong second-half display, but La Viola know full well that such a minor advantage means nothing against the Italian league leaders.
The Bianconeri haven't lost a game since January and are running away with the Serie A title, giving the team a chance to rest some of the starters and focus on making it to the EL final, which will be played at the Juventus Stadium.
BeIN Sport's Tancredi Palmeri thinks the game will be a very tense affair:
Howard Webb chosen to ref Fiorentina-Juventus return leg. Believe me, it will be tense like a Champions League semifinal— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) March 18, 2014
These teams dislike each other tremendously, so fans can expect a fiery battle on Thursday night.
Valencia recorded a simple three-goal win over Ludogorets last week, and the hosts should have no difficulties progressing to the quarter-finals when they host the Bulgarians at the Mestalla. The same goes for Lyon, although their Czech opponents did manage to score an away goal that could prove to be vital.
Jackson Martinez was the difference-maker during his team's 1-0 win against Napoli last week, but FC Porto face a difficult evening at the San Paolo. A loss to Sporting CP has the visitors reeling, and the Neapolitan crowd is one of the fiercest in all of Europe.
In case you forgot, they did this when Borussia Dortmund were in town for the UEFA Champions League:
Napoli always do well at home, so this tie is shaping up to be the highlight of the evening.
The last two ties of the evening will be local clashes, as La Liga bottom-feeders Real Betis look to complete the upset over Sevilla and Basel travel to neighbouring Austria to take on Salzburg.
Salzburg easily took care of Ajax Amsterdam in the previous round and have the advantage going into this tie, but the Swiss outfit are far more experienced in European play.
Betis meanwhile are playing unencumbered and it showed in the team's win over Sevilla, but this city rivalry has produced its fair share of upsets and epic comebacks in the past and this tie might be no different.