Rating the Europa League quarterfinal matchups
Background Photo: Kemal Can Aytekin
After a hectic January and February, the Europa and Champions League are finally on parallel tracks. The quarterfinal draws for both took place on Friday. Uttiyo Sarkar ran the rule over the senior circuit. Now for a look at the junior competition.
While it's unfair to expect equally compelling matchups from the Europa League, there are some flashy ties on the rack.
Arsenal can thank Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang for reversing the 3-1 deficit to Stade Rennais at the Emirates. His brace and Ainsley Maitland-Niles strike on the quarter-hour shattered the Ligue 1 dreamers with a 3-0 win, 4-4 on aggregate with Unai Emery's side through on their away goal. On the other side of the mirror, Napoli's away goal in a 3-1 away defeat to Red Bull Salzburg salvaged their 3-0 advantage from the first leg. The Gunners and Azzurri join Chelsea to stand head and shoulders above the rest of the final eight. This match could just as easily be a Champions League quarterfinal.
The Blues romped to an 8-0 aggregate win over Dinamo Kyiv in their Round of 16 tie. Olivier Giroud's hat trick powered the 5-0 second leg victory. Chelsea enjoyed beating the Eastern Europeans so much, they asked for seconds. The football gods obliged by pairing them with Czech side Slavia Praha.
Benfica can't be too happy with their draw. Eintracht Frankfurt knocked off Inter to progress. Adi Hutters high-powered German attack will give Bruno Lage something to ponder.
The final tie poses an unavoidable threat to Spanish domination in the competition. The two remaining La Liga sides, Villarreal and Valencia face off. In the end, there will be just the one to carry the torch for Spanish football.
The only question left is who among the elite eight has what it takes to advance?