Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund
The biggest talking point from the UEFA Europa League has definitely been the quarter final draw pitting English side Liverpool against Germans, Borussia Dortmund. The common denominator in the two matches will be the Liverpool coach, Jurgen Klopp.
Klopp will be facing his former employers for the first timesince leaving Germany for the Anfield side and much focus has been on the tactician.
Still, there is much to look out to that just the coach even though the matches have already been branded, the Klopp Derby.
Liverpool won the competition at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion in 2001 and the German side will be rubbing palms at the English side’s return. Having eliminated one English side in Tottenham Hotspur, they would really fancy the chance of a repeat. On paper, the Germans look strong having won seven of their ten games since the start of the group stage; one more than any other side in this season’s competition.
They have hit the woodwork ten times since match day one – an average of once per game, and twice as many times as any other side in the competition this season.
Liverpool’s story of this season’s campaign has been more of drawn matches than wins. Of their ten matches so far, the Reds have managed six draws and four wins. Still, the side coached by Klopp will be looking to spur an upset in the quarters and go for their fourth title.
Dortmund, on their part, have twice lost in the final of the competition, in 1993 against Juventus and 2002 against Feyenoord. This time they have one of the strongest teams in the tournament and they will definitely want to make it count.
Athletic v Sevilla
Athletic Bilbao meets arguably their toughest challenge in the tournament so far; a Sevilla team that is on a competition-record run of 11 straight UEFA Europa League home wins as well as two successive final wins.
Sevilla have won the title a record four times and in this edition, they will be gunning for a third straight title.
No team has won three consecutive editions of a UEFA competition since Bayern Munich’s third straight European Champion Clubs’ Cup triumph in 1975/76. Sevilla are the first club to contest the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals for three seasons running.
For Athletic, they will be meeting a Spanish side again after eliminating Valencia in the last round. The two sides are placed fifth and sixth in the La Liga and it will be hard to separate them in this match.
While Sevilla takes to the tie a strong record in the recent past, they will be meeting an Athletic side that is the most prolific scorers left in the competition, 20 goals in ten matches since the start of the group stage giving them an average of two goals a game.
Villarreal v Sparta
These two are the only sides in the competition who have never played in a UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League final.
The Czech side last reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals in 1983/84 – their best campaign in this competition. Current coach Zdeněk Ščasný played in both legs, Sparta ultimately losing out to HNK Hajduk Split after extra time.
The last Czech club to reach a UEFA semi-final was Slavia Praha, who lost out to Bordeaux in the 1995/96 UEFA Cup. No Czech club has played in the final of a major UEFA club tournament.
Villarreal’s best previous campaigns in the competition ended in the semi-finals, where they were twice eliminated by eventual winners – Valencia in 2003/04 and Porto in 2010/11. The Yellow Submarine’s Samuel Castillejo is the most fouled player in this season’s competition, with 32 infringements against him since the start of the group stage.
Braga v Shakhtar
The two sides met twice in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League, with Shakhtar winning both games. Braga was eliminated from the elite tournament and dropped to the Europa League and went on to grace the final that season.
That was the finest campaign for Braga and have never been to the last eight again. They are the most fouled side in the tournament with 151 infringements against them in the course of the ten match days – 27 more than any other side left in the competition.
Shakhtar on the other hand, have reached each quarter-final since they won the final edition of the UEFA Cup in 2009. The side from Ukraine boasts of the player – Darijo Srna and coach – Mircea Lucescu who have featured in the most UEFA club competition matches among the last-eight contenders; 132 and 210 appearances.