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Friday, 21 March 2014 14:36

Benfica and FC Porto with favourable draws

Eagles pitted against AZ Alkmaar, FC Porto meet Sevilla once again

europa-league-logo.jpgFC Porto and Benfica, the two Portuguese teams that overcame Napoli and Tottenham respectively last night, managed to avoid Juventus and each other, thus increasing the chances of yet another Portuguese team in the semi-finals of the Europa League - by now a Portuguese favourite.

AZ Alkmaar v Benfica

Even though Benfica will be facing AZ Alkmaar for the first time, the Dutch team is deeply entrenched in the memory of most Portuguese football fans, particularly those who support Sporting. In fact, the same team crossed the Lions' path on their way to the then UEFA Cup final, with Miguel Garcia, the hero of Alkmaar, scoring a last-gasp goal in extra-time to secure Sporting's ticket to the final at the Alvalade.

Given Benfica's impressive track record against Dutch teams and the fond memories of Alkmaar, one might be excused for being enthusiastic about the draw and the Eagles' chances of progressing to the semi-finals.

FC Porto v Sevilla

If we're talking about fond memories, FC Porto could hardly have found a better trigger. Indeed, the Dragons won their first European title under José Mourinho's leadership in Seville back in 2003, a mere two years before Sporting's glorious night in Alkmaar. As if that weren't enough, the Portuguese champions beat Sevilla on away goals back in 2010/11, a season where the side would end up clinching not only the Europa League, but the Portuguese Cup and League as well, under the then hot managerial commodity André Villas-Boas (recently appointed Zenit St. Petersburg's head coach). On the other hand, the match will allow Portuguese fans the chance to see Sevilla's Portuguese players Beto, Daniel Carriço and Diogo Figueiras in action.

Given that both teams wanted to steer clear of Juventus (clear favourites, particularly since the competition's final will be held in Turin) and each other, the draw could hardly have gone better, even though no opponents should be underestimated at this point.

Full draw:

Lyon v Juventus
FC Basel v Valencia
FC PORTO v Sevilla

The two legs will be played on 3 and 10 April.

Comments (5)
5 Sunday, 23 March 2014 13:16
torpiano, uk
Napoli ten times better than Sevilla? Are you sure about that?
Sevilla are in decent form at the moment and have some very good players. Ivan Rakitic in particular is an absolute gem. I think it will be close.

Italian clubs have once again proved how poor they are on the European stage while Spanish clubs continue to do well. I also have doubts about Juventus winning it. I think the two Portuguese & two Spanish sides are capable of beating them, Benfica are probably most likely. Having the final at home can add more pressure too, we've seen Sporting & Bayern lose European finals at home in recent years.
4 Friday, 21 March 2014 19:31
Great draw. Benfica and Porto deserve it for overcoming two of the better teams in the tournament. Porto actually were very lucky to advance but both Tottenham and Napoli spent €100's of millions revamping their squad and failed to reach the QF of a 2nd tier competition. They should be ashamed.

Benfica has the European pedigree and AZ probably the worst team left in the competition, only defeated Anji 1-0 on aggregate.

Sevilla is known for playing in a top league but a quick look through their mediocre squad and I conclude Porto are favorites because they held off a team that with a little better finishing could've thrashed anyone. Let's be honest. Napoli is 10x better than Sevilla.
3 Friday, 21 March 2014 17:52
The last line of the article is very true: "no opponents should be underestimated at this point". Both teams could've got harder opponents in the draw, but nothing can be taken for granted in a European quarter final.

Benfica will be clear favourites to advance past AZ, we have a much stronger squad with much more experience at this level. However some caution is needed too. As I mentioned in my earlier post today about the match last night, Portuguese teams in general are at their worst when they feel they can relax and not put in maximum effort. SLB looked so much better in the first leg against Spurs because there was pressure and we had to give everything. I hope they don't play against AZ with a similar attitude they displayed last night. If AZ are in the quarter finals they obviously have quality, so we have to take them totally seriously in order to advance.

Same goes for Porto. They should start as favourites against Sevilla, who are not as strong as a few years back. However the Spanish Liga is the strongest in Europe and Sevilla is one of their top teams, so they are unlikely be an easy prospect and will also fancy their chances of beating Porto.

I also disagree that Juve are the "clear favourites". Yes if they get to the final they will have home advantage, but despite their dominance in Serie A, they have largely disappointed in Europe lately (crashed out of the CL group stage and struggled to get past Fiorentina in the EL round of 16). If they reach the final they will be the clear favourites, being at home, but I think either Benfica or Porto would stand a pretty good chance of beating them should they meet in the semis. But yes overall I'd say both our clubs will be satisfied with the draw.
Great draws for both sides
2 Friday, 21 March 2014 16:46
AZ Alkmaar are a decent side but they are are probably the weakest team in the quarter finals (7th in the Eredivisie). We should be able to advance.

Sevilla-Porto will be more 50-50, but at least they avoided Juve.
1 Friday, 21 March 2014 16:10
It appears on the UEFA website that Porto will play the first game away from home. Why does Porto always start with the first leg at home. I am missing something here. Secondly Porto has got to clean it up defensively, if they don't they will get picked apart by Sevilla and loose badly. This should be a pretty wide open tie and could go any way.

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