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The second most important competition of the old continent defined the strong crossings of the third last phase. What is the panorama of this final stretch?
The UEFA Europa League has taken great relevance in recent years for the great teams that dispute it and for the unprecedented crosses that can be seen. For this season the quarterfinals are defined thanks to the draw made last Friday, March 15, in which the Dutch champion of the UEFA Cup in 2002 with Feyenoord, Pierre van Hooijdonk, was commissioned to take the ballots. How were the crosses?
SSC Napoli (ITA) Vs. Arsenal (ING)
Napoli began their participation in the UEFA Europa League this season from the round of 32, defeating Zürich and Salzburg to reach these quarterfinals. On the other hand, the Arsenal initiated its participation from the group stage, and in the eliminatory phases, it beat the Bate Borisov and the Rennes.
According to UEFA, Napoli won the competition only once, in 1989, while Arsenal achieved its best participation in 2000 when it was runner-up. Both clubs had faced each other on only 2 occasions, when they met in the group stage of the 2013/14 Champions League, conceding a victory for each one. It is the evenest duel of the quarterfinals, as the Napoli marches in the second position of the Serie A of Italy and the Arsenal fight in the upper part of the Premiere League.
Villarreal (ESP) Vs. Valencia (ESP)
This is the only key that will face two teams from the same country. According to UEFA, Villarreal overcame the group stage and then in direct eliminations to Sporting Lisbon and Zenit, while Valencia entered from the round of 32, defeating Celtic and Krasnodar. Villareal's best performance in the Europa League has been the semi-finals achieved in 2004, 2011 and 2016, while Valencia won the title in 2004.
According to the official website of UEFA, this match is known as the `Derbi of the Valencian Community,' and has only had one game in continental competitions: semifinal of the 2003/04 UEFA Cup, which won Valencia with a solitary goal scored by Mista. The fact that it is a derby makes the key uncertain, but its locations in La Liga de España give Valencia a favorite.
Benfica (POR) Vs. Eintracht Frankfurt (ALE)
The Portuguese team competes in the round of 32, eliminating Galatasaray and Dynamo Zagreb in extra time. On the other hand, Eintracht Frankfurt entered the Europa League from the group stage, defeating Shakhtar Donetsk and Inter Milan. UEFA says in one of its many articles on the subject, the best performances of Benfica achieved in 1983, 2013 and 2014 as runner-up.
Slavia Praga (CZE) Vs. Chelsea (ING)
This is the only quarterfinal key in which the two teams that are going to face entered the competition from the group stage. Slavia Prague defeated Genk and Sevilla, the historic winner of the match, while Chelsea defeated Malmö and Dynamo Kyiv.
According to UEFA, the best participation of the Czech team was achieved in the 1995/96 season when it reached the semifinals, while Chelsea won the title in 2013. This will be the first time the two teams have faced each other, although Chelsea has a winning 6 games against Czech teams. It could be the most uneven duel of all because the English team starts as a significant favorite to advance in the round.
The first leg matches will be played on Thursday, April 11 and the games on Thursday, the 18th of the same month. According to the newspaper AS, the winner of the key between Napoli and Arsenal will face in the semifinals against the winner of the core between Villarreal and Valencia, while the winner of the duel between Benfica and Eintracht Frankfurt will be measured against the winner of the contest between Slavia Prague and Chelsea, the latter being the favorite to stay with the title.
Competition with a lot of history
The tournament began in the 1971/72 season under the name of the UEFA Cup. Sevilla is the highest historical winner of the match with 5 titles, followed by Atlético de Madrid, Inter Milan, Juventus and Liverpool, each with 3 titles.
The player who played the most matches in the cup is the Italian Giuseppe Bergomi of Inter Milan, with 96 games. The historic top scorer of the competition is Sweden's Henrik Larsson with 40 goals, and Colombian Radamel Falcao, the top scorer in a single season with 17 goals for Porto in the 2010/11 season.
Napoli, Arsenal, Villareal, Valencia, Benfica, Eintracht Frankfurt, Slavia Prague, and Chelsea, will seek to face this final with all the strength necessary to reach the decisive match, which will be played on Wednesday, May 29 at the Olympic Stadium in Baku, Azerbaijan
LatinAmerican Post | Javier Aldana
Copy edited by Vanesa López Romero