Europa League 2014: Top Stars Who Belong in the Champions League

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Europa League 2014: Top Stars Who Belong in the Champions League
Salvatore Laporta

Four games are all that stands between the final eight sides left in the Europa League and a place in May's final in Turin.

The quarter-final stage of Europe's secondary club competition gets underway on Thursday with all four first-leg clashes taking place. 

Favourites Juventus take on Lyon while Sevilla travel to Porto, with AZ Alkmaar's visit to Benfica and Valencia's clash with Basel rounding out the fixture list.

Coming the day after the Champions League first legs have been completed, there are some amongst those taking part who deserve to be competing against Europe's elite.

Let's have a look at some of the stars of Thursday's fixtures who belong in the Champions League.  

 

Carlos Tevez, Juventus

Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

There are many in the Juventus side who deserve to be playing in the Champions League, and they will return to the upper echelons of European competition next season as they currently sit 11 points clear at the top of Serie A.

But the dynamic Argentinian has been a standout for the Turin side this season after joining from Manchester City in the summer, and his frenetic presence is missed in the Champions League.

Top scorer in Serie A this season, the former Manchester United man has scored 18 goals in 29 appearances, per Squwka.com

In Juventus' 2-0 loss to Napoli at the weekend, only their second in the league this season, they really seemed to miss Tevez's presence, as noted by Serie A journalist Paolo Bandini:

Not only does the Champions League miss Tevez's tremendous skill, he is also a great character and willing to play the role of the pantomime villain. 

It is a shame that United will likely not be in the Champions League next season as a potential clash between the two sides would have brought out the Red Devils' boo-boys who will never forgive Tevez for transferring to City from Old Trafford. 

 

Carlos Bacca, Sevilla

Toni Rodriguez

Colombian Bacca has proven that he can perform against the cream of Europe's crop—he recently scored twice against Real Madrid as Sevilla downed Los Blancos 2-0 in La Liga.

He also scored once as his side overcame the 2-0 deficit they had conceded at home to city rivals Real Betis to qualify on penalties from the last 16 of the Europa League.

That evening he was withdrawn after 105 minutes, stretchered off through exhaustion. 

His La Liga record this season is impressive—14 goals in 30 appearances ties him for seventh in the top-scorers list.

And the 27-year-old's story is an absolute gem. Seven years ago, he was a bus conductor between Baranquilla and his home town of Puerto Colombia, as reported by Sid Lowe in the Guardian.

Now he is grabbing the goals for Sevilla on a regular basis and against one of the biggest clubs in the world.

His side sit six points off the Champions League spots in La Liga—he deserves a chance to show what he's got amongst Europe's best. 

 

Ricardo Quaresma, Porto

Paulo Duarte

Previously touted as Portugal's next big thing ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, the former Inter Milan and Barcelona winger has been given a new lease of life after returning to Porto in January. 

Before returning to the club he was at between 2004 and 2008, he had spent six months in the wilderness of free agency after being released by Dubai-based club Al Ahli.

And with skills like this, it looks as though Porto's punt has paid off:

He has scored five goals in the league since returning to Porto as well as two goals in four Europa League games, per Squawka.com.

He has impressed many since his return, including Portuguese football writer Jan Hagen:

There is even talk that he might make the World Cup squad, as reported by Chris Mendes in the Telegraph, and if he continues to keep up his current form, a final outing in the Champions League would be fitting as his career is revitalised.

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