Winners and Losers from Europa League Quarter-Final Draw
The matches been made and the dates set. The first leg will be played on 3 April and the return a week later on 10 April. The ties will be: AZ Alkmaar v Benfica; Lyon v Juventus; Basel v Valencia; Porto v Sevilla.
There's no shortage of quality in the quarter-finals of the Europa League this season, and it's fair to say that there are really no weak teams left. Even so, the draw was certainly kinder to some sides.
So who are the winners and losers?
Without wanting to disrespect AZ Alkmaar, Benfica got the easiest of the draws for their quarter-final. The Dutch side is currently way off the pace at home, wallowing in seventh in the Eredivisie. Their current form is uninspiring, too: LDLWWL.
Alkmaar have had an easy run of it in Europe so far, with only a game against the Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala—no longer an all-star, big-spending side—to test them.
The Portuguese should go through and could make the final—where they were beaten last year by Chelsea—if the draw is kind and they can face one of the other smaller teams left in the competition, but it's unlikely that the current Liga Sagres leaders have enough about them to get past Juventus or Lyon.
Loser: AZ Alkmaar
It's not inconceivable that AZ Alkmaar could beat Benfica, but the Dutch will be disappointed not to get Valencia or Basel.
Winner: Portuguese Football
We've already touched on Benfica's favourable draw, and likewise, their rivals Porto will feel confident about being able to overcome Sevilla in this round.
Benfica played very well against Spurs in the second leg of their round-of-16 encounter and, of course, were last year's beaten finalists. They'll want to go one better this term.
Porto, meanwhile, were very impressive against Napoli and should take this competition seriously as it's unlikely that they'll be able to catch the Benfiquistas in the league.
Two highly motivated and capable sides, then, that should fly the flag for Portuguese football.
Antonio Conte will be rightly pleased to have dispatched Fiorentina in the previous round, but the Bianconeri will have wanted to avoid serious competition in the quarter-finals. Instead, they drew Lyon.
The French side is not what it once was but will still provide a stiff test for the Italian league leaders, who have their hearts set on making the final, due to be held in Turin in their new stadium.
Juve have twice been European champions, they won the UEFA Cup three times and the Cup Winners' Cup once but are without a continental title since their win in the 1996 Champions League.
Loser: Whoever's Watching Valencia and FC Basel
Neither Valencia and FC Basel really merit a place at this stage of the competition. The Swiss only scraped by Salzburg, thanks to a small second-half miracle—and perhaps a helping hand from their troublesome supporters—and the Spanish enjoyed a very easy route this season.
Dynamo Kiev lost out to Valencia in the last round, understandably distracted by the tragic events currently unfolding in Ukraine. It's a shame they're not in the quarter-finals because they'd be a lot more interesting to watch.
The Biggest Loser: Football
It's bad enough that Napoli and Fiorentina are out of the competition, but the unkind draw now means that we'll be without either Juventus or Lyon in the final.
That's a shame, because they're arguably the strongest teams left, and in an ideal world, they'd have avoided each other until the final.