Saturday, 26 March 2011

Europe: Part 2 - Europa League Preview

As we stated last week, Real Talk Football takes a look at both draws of the European cup competitions, and previews the last eight teams left in each competition. Today we look at part 2 which features the Europa League draw.

The reason I suggest everyone keeps an eye on the Europa League this year, is quite frankly because it has been packed with free flowing entertaining football. Now with no clear favourites left in the competition, a surprise winner could be on the cards.

Europa League

The four ties in the quarter final draw are as follows

FC Porto v. Spartak Moscow

Tale of the tape

FC Porto finished 3rd in the Portuguese Liga at the end of the 2009/10 season, subsequently ascertaining automatic Europa League qualification. The 2003 UEFA Cup winners started their campaign with an unbeaten group stage, where they won 5 of 6 games and topped a group consisting of Besiktas, Rapid Wien and CSKA Sofia, with 16 points.

In the first knockout phase they overcame two tough games against Sevilla, with the match ending in a 2-2 draw, hence progressing on away goals. In the last 16, Porto beat the very tricky CSKA Moscow side both home and away to win 3-1 on aggregate, and set up a quarter final tie against another team from the Russian capital.

This Russian side made their way into the competition after finishing third behind Chelsea and Marseille in the Champion’s League group stage. The Moscow based side, who are managed by former Russian international Valeri Karpin, surpassed Swiss side FC Basle 4-3 on aggregate after two great games.

In the last 16 tie, they comfortably beat Dutch giants AFC Ajax 4-0 on aggregate to set up a tie against the blues and whites from Portugal.

Key Players

Aiden McGeady – A name which football fans in Britain may be loosely familiar with, the Irishman joined the Russian side from Scottish side Celtic, for £9.5 million. This transfer made him the most expensive export from the Scottish Premier League in history. He was named the second best right midfielder in the Russian Premier League for last season, and is a pivotal member of the Spartak side.

Falcao – the Colombian international has been in scintillating form this campaign, scoring 7 times in 9 appearances. The 25 year old joined Porto in 2009, and has since taken his totals to 36 goals in 44 appearances. He is a clinical striker, with an eye for goal, and has already shown this season, that he can be the difference maker.

Probable Line-ups

SL Benfica v. PSV

Tale of the tape

Benfica are another side to enter the Europa League after finishing 3rd in their respective Champions’s League group. Their group consisted of Schalke 04, Lyon and Hapoel Tel-Aviv. The Portuguese side beat German side VFB Stuttgart 4-1 over two legs in an enthralling pair of matches.

In the last 16 tie, Benfica overcame the tricky French side PSG 3-2 on aggregate with star performers Franco Jara and Oscar Cardozo causing all sorts of problems for their opponents.

Dutch side PSV finished 3rd in their domestic league last season, earning automatic Europa League qualification. They progressed through to the knockout stages of the tournament after topping their group with 14 points, ahead of opponents Metalist, Sampdoria and Debrecen.

They then went on and beat French league leaders Lille 5-3 on aggregate in a very open and attacking match, and then beat Scottish side Glasgow Rangers 1-0 over two legs in a match which was completely opposite to the win over Lille.

Key Players

Balázs Dzsudzsák – The left winger/attacker is the key man for PSV as his great performances for the Dutch side has seen him attract interest from some of Europe’s elite clubs. In the Europa League this season, he has 4 goals in 10 games, with 2 assists.

Fábio Coentrão – the tricky left back, who can also play further forward if needed, is one of the most promising left sided players in Europe. He impressed at the 2010 World Cup for Portugal, and has continued his great form this season. He has play all four matches in the Europa League this season, so keep an eye out for his skills, his pace and his excellent crossing ability.

Probable Line-ups

Villarreal v. FC Twente

Tale of the tape

The Yellow Submarine progress through to the knockout phase of the tournament after finishing top of Group D with 12 points, which consisted of opponents PAOK, Dinamo Zagreb and Club Brugge. Renowned for their great home form, the Spanish club lost two away matches in the group stages, and this is seen as their weakness. However Villarreal did beat two of the pre-tournaments favourites in Napoli (2-1 on aggregate) in the first stage, and then Bayern Leverkusen (5-3 on aggregate) in the last 16 stage, to subsequently progress to the Quarter-finals.

FC Twente boss Michel Preud'homme dubbed Villarreal "little Barcelona" after the draw was made, which is a huge compliment to Juan Carlos Garrido’s side. The Dutch champions entered the Europa League after finishing 3rd in their Champion’s League group, behind Tottenham and Inter Milan. They fought off valiant comebacks from both Rubin Kazan (0-2 win away, 2-2 draw at home, 4-2 win on aggregate) and pre-tournament favourites Zenit St. Petersburg 3-2 on aggregate, winning 3-0 away in a cold night in Russia.

Key Players

Luuk De Jong – A player we have mentioned on the blog before, and a striker who is a nuisance, and knows how to find the back of the net. He has made 4 appearances in the Europa League, and has scored 3 goals. He was hailed and credited for his brilliant performance against Zenit St. Petersburg.

Giuseppe Rossi – Another Real Talk Football favourite, the 24 year old is the Europa League’s top goalscorer with 8 goals in 10 appearances, with 2 assists. He has been exceptional this season, and his partnership up front with Nilmar, and his link up play with midfielders Borja and Santi Carzola have been the basis to their progression into the latter stages.

Probable Line-ups

Dynamo Kiev v. SC Braga

Tale of the tape

The Ukrainian side rewound the clock, and found some of that European form which was so impressive in the early 00’s. They finished top of their group with 11 points, in a tricky group with BATE, AZ and Sheriff.

Dynamo did however wait until the knockout stages before they really turned on the style, smashing Turkish side Besiktas 8-1 on aggregate. They then went on to knockout another one of the pre-tournament favourites; Manchester City 2-1 on aggregate and progressing into the Quarters.

SC Braga, the third and final Portuguese representatives are another one of the teams to enter through the finishing third in their respective Champion’s League group, they finished behind Shaktar Donetsk and Arsenal respectively. In the first knockout phase they overcame a 1-0 away first leg defeat to Lech Poznan to win 2-1 on aggregate. They then upset their second English side in Europe this season beating the three time UEFA Cup winners Liverpool 1-0 on aggregate.

Key Players

Alan – the Brazilian born attacking midfielder has scored 2 vital goals in the 4 appearances he’s made in this Europa League campaign. At 31 years old he’s a more experienced member of the squad, and scored in the resurgence over Lech, and the decisive winner over Liverpool.

Artem Milevskiy – the Ukrainian “playboy” has let his on the field performances do the talking this season, with 5 goals and 2 assists in 9 appearances this campaign. The 26 year old plays in the hole behind Andriy Shevchenko for this Kiev side, as he is a strong, versatile, fast and creative forward.

Probable Line-ups

Who do think will win the Europa League? Leave your comments below, if you don't have a log in, feel free to use the anonymous settings.

Remember to follow us on Twitter and search for us on Facebook.

Real Talk Football

1 comment:

  1. you doing better than bbc fam lool