Sevilla, Villarreal and Shakhtar primed to progress – Europa League Quarter Finals Preview

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Thursday evening sees the Europa League quarter-final second-legs take place across Europe, with a place in the last-four within touching distance.

DORTMUND, GERMANY - Thursday, April 7, 2016: Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund players line-up before the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match at Westfalenstadion. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Last week’s first-leg action gave us plenty of entertainment, with all four quarter-finals still very much finely poised.

There will no doubt be twists and turns throughout the evening on Thursday, with four more teams eliminated come the end of the night.

With a Champions League place in 2016/17 on offer for the tournament’s victor, this has now reached a critical stage in the competition.

Here is a look at the four quarter-final second-legs that await us.

Liverpool aiming for major scalp

DORTMUND, GERMANY - Thursday, April 7, 2016: Liverpool's Nathaniel Clyne in action against Borussia Dortmund's Henrik Mkhitaryan during the UEFA Europa League Quarter-Final 1st Leg match at Westfalenstadion. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Liverpool (1) vs (1). Dortmund – Anfield, April 14th, 8:05pm

Following a very interesting first-leg at Signal Iduna Park, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund reconvene at what will be a deafening Anfield.

The 1-1 draw in Germany was probably a fair result – if anything, the Reds deserved to win – with Divock Origi and Mats Hummels exchanging goals on the night.

Both Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel had the luxury of resting many key players over the weekend, and the two managers are fortunate not to have too many injuries of note currently.

It really is a difficult match to predict, and a fast start for Liverpool is crucial in terms of keeping the crowd behind them.

There will be so much individual brilliance on show, and as a footballing spectacle, it is by far the most eye-catching of the Europa League quarter-finals.

Victory for Liverpool would be an enormous signal of intent, but they will have to be at their brilliant best in order to see off a Dortmund side full of confidence and quality.

One of those nerve-jangling Anfield European nights is almost upon us.

Sevilla in pole position

CARDIFF, WALES - Tuesday, August 12, 2014: Supporters in the city ahead of the UEFA Super Cup at the Cardiff City Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Sevilla (2) vs. (1) Athletic Bilbao – Ramos Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, April 14th, 8:05pm

Much has been made of Sevilla winning a third Europa League title in a row, and rightly so.

The La Liga side have dominated the competition over the last decade – four wins in 10 years – and they look primed for yet another place in the semi-finals.

Unai Emery’s men faced a tricky-looking trip to Athletic Bilbao in the first-leg, but they passed with flying colours.

Despite red-hot striker Aritz Aduriz giving the hosts the lead in the Basque country, Sevilla turned the game on its head in the second-half.

Timothee Kolodziejczak and Vicente Iborra both found the net, and Bilbao now face an uphill challenge when they travel to Sevilla’s imposing Ramos Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

It would be churlish to write off Bilbao’s chances, but should they progress, it would be one of the tournament’s biggest shocks this season.

Villarreal narrow favourites to progress

14.09.2011, Estadio El Madrigal, Villareal, ESP, UEFA CL, Villareal CF v FC Bayern Muenchen, im Bild El Madrigal Stadium during UEFA Champions League match.September 14,2011. EXPA Pictures © 2011, PhotoCredit: EXPA/ Alterphoto/ Acero

Sparta Prague (1) vs. (2) Villarreal – Generali Arena, April 14th, 8:05pm

There is a strong Spanish presence in the quarter-finals, and Villarreal will feel they have as good a chance as anyone of winning the Europa League this season.

Despite this, their two-legged clash with Sparta Prague is far from over, with the Czech side scoring an all important away goal in Spain last week.

Cedric Bakambu’s double earned Villarreal victory on the night – the forward is very much a man in form – but Jakub Brabec’s goal on the stroke of half-time has given Prague genuine hope.

Marcelino’s Villarreal team will firmly believe they can score an away goal of their own on Thursday, and if they do, it is tough to see their opponents overcoming them.

Braga look to overturn first-leg deficit

BRAGA, PORTUGAL, Wednesday, March 9, 2011: An official Adidas match ball on the turf as Liverpool players begin training at the Estadio Municipal de Braga ahead of the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 1st leg match against Sporting Clube de Braga. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Shakhtar Donetsk (2) vs. (1) Sporting Braga – Arena Lviv, April 14th, 8:05pm

Shakhtar Donetsk were always strongly fancied to come through their duel with Sporting Braga, and their chances were enhanced in an intriguing first-leg.

The Ukrainian giants failed to dominate the Portuguese side, in truth, but their ruthlessness eventually shone through in the end.

Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Facundo Ferreyra scored either side of half-time, but the tie was kept alive thanks to Wilson Eduardo’s very late strike.

Braga are not exactly a side brimming with firepower and household names, and they will have to produce a fantastic performance to get the better of a talented Shakhtar side this week.

Once it gets to this stage in any competition, however, every side will feel they have the capabilities of going all the way.

To mark the end of the 30-year wait for a league title, the ‘Liverpool Mishmash’ poster is available to order exclusively on This Is Anfield — the history of the Reds in one image!

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