Chelsea are the betting favourites to win this season's UEFA Europa League after the draw for the quarter-final stage was made on Friday.
The Blues were drawn against Salvia Prague, conquerors of Sevilla, 6-5 on aggregate, in the round of 16. However, the standout tie of the last eight involves Chelsea's London rivals from the Premier League, Arsenal, who were drawn against capable Serie A outfit Napoli.
The Italians are second favourites with oddsmakers, ahead of the Gunners. Meanwhile, the all-La Liga tie between Villarreal and Valencia could well produce a tournament winner.
Odds (via Caesars Entertainment)
- Chelsea: 7-4
- Napoli: 7-2
- Arsenal: 9-2
- Valencia: 7-1
- Benfica: 10-1
- Eintracht Frankfurt: 10-1
- Villarreal: 15-1
- Slavia Prague: 30-1
Chelsea's status as favourites is merited since the Blues have the strength in depth few teams left can match. The Blues' reserves of talent were evident during the 8-0 aggregate win over Dynamo Kiev in the last round.
Olivier Giroud doesn't start ahead of Gonzalo Higuain in the Premier League, but he has scored nine goals in this competition. The Frenchman bagged a hat-trick during Thursday's 5-0 win in Ukraine:
Giroud also created a goal for Callum Hudson-Odoi, the 18-year-old gifted enough to let manager Maurizio Sarri leave Pedro and Eden Hazard on the bench.
Sarri hasn't used his marquee stars yet and will also be happy about Chelsea's potential path to the final. If they overcome Slavia Prague, the Blues will meet the winner of Benfica's tie with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Benfica have some developing talent, including left-back Alex Grimaldo, who is a reported transfer target for Arsenal and Manchester City, per Sport's Albert Roge.
However, Frankfurt are also a team to fear thanks to in-form striker Luka Jovic. The former Benfica man netted the lone goal to beat Inter Milan away on Thursday and continue a superb run in this tournament:
Luka Jovic in the UEFA Europa League this season: v Marseille ⚽️ v Lazio ⚽️ v Apollon ❌ v Apollon ⚽️ v Marseille ⚽️⚽️ v Lazio ❌ v Shakhtar 🅰️ v Inter ❌ vs Inter ⚽️ 10 games, 7 goals & 1 assist. Directly involved in a goal every 76 minutes. Beast. 💪 https://t.co/5Q1BfAaM7q
While Frankfurt and Benfica represent potentially difficult opposition, Chelsea will prefer their route to the final over the daunting path Arsenal have been set.
Getting past Napoli will be no easy task, not when the squad is loaded with match-winners in forward areas. Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens and Arkadiusz Milik can all score goals in bunches.
Fabian Ruiz and Allan offer artistry from midfield for a team led by serial European winner Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian has won the UEFA Champions League three times, twice with AC Milan and once with Real Madrid, but the 59-year-old has never lifted this trophy.
Fortunately for Arsenal, head coach Unai Emery knows a thing or two about winning this competition. He led Sevilla to a hat-trick of Europa League trophies before leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in 2016.
Emery has also got the Gunners clicking by finally embracing the ample attacking quality he inherited from predecessor Arsene Wenger. Arsenal overturned a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Rennes by starting strikers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang together.
The prolific pair were supported by the guile of Mesut Ozil, not always an Emery favourite this season, and the energy of Aaron Ramsey. Aubameyang bagged a brace, with Ramsey setting up his first goal, as Rennes were swept aside 3-0.
Arsenal have the firepower to trouble a Napoli defence picked apart during a 3-1 second-leg defeat away to Red Bull Salzburg which saw Ancelotti's men scrape through 4-3 on aggregate.
If the Gunners make it through, they could set up a reunion with former playmaker Santi Cazorla. He's helping Villarreal impress this season.
The Yellow Submarine might feel aggrieved by odds of 15-1, considering how easily they brushed off Zenit St. Petersburg 5-2 on aggregate in the last round. Cazorla and Pablo Fornals ensure there's enough flair in the middle of the park to supply dangerous strikers Carlos Bacca and Gerard Moreno.
Villarreal can produce magic in the final third but won't find it easy overcoming Valencia. Los Che are managed by a familiar face in Marcelino, who took the Yellow Submarine to the last four of this competition back in 2016.
His versatile 4-4-2 formation ensures a solid shape, while also guaranteeing progressive fluency in forward areas. Yet it still took a last-gasp equaliser from Goncalo Guedes to help Los Che edge past Krasnodar 3-2 on aggregate.
Even so, Valencia justify a spot as fourth favourites thanks to gifted players like creative skipper Dani Parejo and powerhouse forward Rodrigo. Their presence makes this side of the draw easily the toughest for a possible tournament winner to negotiate.