Wolfsburg's battle against Inter Milan headlines an exciting Europa League round-of-16 draw. Friday's ceremony also pitted Sevilla against Villarreal in an all-Spanish tie, while Italian rivals Fiorentina and Roma are set to do battle.
Here's a look at the full draw, per the competition's official Twitter account:
It's worth noting that Russian and Ukrainian teams still couldn't be paired together due to the difficult political climate between the two nations, reported by Football Italia. First-leg ties will be played on March 12, with the second legs taking place a week later, per UEFA.
2015 Europa League Favourites
It's likely to surprise many people that Wolfsburg are behind only Napoli as favourites for the tournament, as demonstrated by Oddschecker.
The Partenopei and Roma are perhaps the more obvious contenders—especially as they both have recent Champions League experience—but Dieter Hecking's side have seriously improved since the early stages of the season.
Since losing 4-1 to Everton in September, Wolfsburg have lost just three of their proceeding 27 matches in all competitions, winning 19, per WhoScored.com. This run includes an impressive 4-1 thrashing of Bayern Munich, an enthralling 5-4 away win over Bayer Leverkusen and the side's recent Europa League dismantling of Sporting Lisbon, which finished 2-0 on aggregate in the round of 32.
Wolfsburg have found consistency at the back—conceding more than one goal just once in their last eight matches—and a prolific goalscorer up front. Bas Dost has seemingly come from nowhere to score 12 goals in his last eight matches, generating plenty of buzz on the continent.
His quality is highlighted below:
Dost has a conversation rate of 45.8 per cent in front of goal this season, according to WhoScored, and he is feeding brilliantly off Kevin De Bruyne's creative output. The Belgian has assisted three and scored three in eight competition appearances this term, with those figures standing at 11 and 15 respectively when Bundesliga fixtures are added, per WhoScored.
The same outlet highlighted Wolfsburg's ability to create opportunities:
These players can go about their jobs freely, knowing the anchor of Luiz Gustavo will keep things ticking over behind them. The Germans have top quality running throughout their side, with Naldo and Ricardo Rodriguez also consistently proving their worth. Throw in the January signing of Andre Schurrle, and this is an incredibly tough team to beat.
Inter Milan are improving by the week—aided by the decent form of players such as Mauro Icardi, Fredy Guarin and Xherdan Shaqiri—and will prove difficult to overcome, but Wolfsburg continue to demonstrate a palpable collective resiliency.
There's no doubt Sevilla are equipped to go a long way in the tournament. This is a club that has won the competition three times in the last decade, and the defending champions have a habit of quietly gaining momentum in the latter stages.
Unai Emery's team are also progressing well in La Liga, currently sat in fifth with 14 wins from 24 matches. They beat Villarreal, 2-1, earlier in the season and will be confident of moving beyond their familiar opponents in the continental clash.
Although there are stronger teams on paper remaining in the competition, when things click for Sevilla, they have the capacity to upset anyone still standing. Sports writer Kieran Canning suggests that the draw is unlucky for both teams, however:
Sevilla's output is dependent on striker Carlos Bacca, someone who stretches the play with ambitious forward runs. He scored the important opener in the second leg of the 4-2 aggregate win over Borussia Monchengladbach, working ruthlessly ahead of quality players such as Aleix Vidal and Vitolo, both of whom contributed to the success.
Emery has drilled his team to squeeze opponents out of possession while taking control with the ball at their feet. Sevilla are also used to springing forward on the counter, making them lethal if play breaks down in the centre. As dark horses, this combination of tournament experience and ambition could be key.
The round-of-16 ties are sure to serve up plenty of drama, with sides such as Wolfsburg and Sevilla now looking to make a run to the final eight and, ultimately, the crown.