Saturday, May 26, 2018

Europa League preview: Semi-final spots up for grabs

SoccerNews in UEFA Europa League 4 Apr 2013


Three English sides will be vying for a place in the Europa League semi-finals as the quarter-finals get underway on Thursday.

Champions League holders Chelsea will face Russia’s Rubin Kazan in the first leg at Stamford Bridge and will be playing their third game in five days after facing Southampton in the Premier League and Manchester United in the FA Cup.

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez will be missing two key defensive figures with Ashley Cole limping off against Manchester United with a hamstring injury and Gary Cahill having already been ruled out with a knee injury.

Rubin Kazan, who knocked out Europa League holders Atletico Madrid in the round-of-32, have a fit squad to choose from and will be buoyed by having gone five games in all competitions without a loss.

Tottenham will host the first leg of their clash against Swiss side Basel at White Hart Lane.

After beating Inter Milan 3-0 in the first leg of their round-of-16 clash, Spurs found themselves in desperate trouble after their Italian opponents forced the game into extra time at the Giuseppe Meazza.

But a 96th-minute Emmanuel Adebayor strike got Spurs a crucial away goal and they progressed despite Inter again levelling the tie with 10 minutes of extra time to spare.

Andre Villas-Boas will be without defensive midfielder Sandro (knee) and there is a question mark over USA international Clint Dempsey, who did not feature in the squad for Spurs’ last game against Swansea City.

Basel have a deadly Swiss strike force featuring veterans Alexander Frei and Marco Streller and hopes will be high that they can find the back of the net with the duo contributing 19 league goals this season.

Fresh from a 4-0 loss in the league to Manchester City, Newcastle United will travel to Portugal to take on Benfica at the Estadio do Sport.

Alan Pardew’s side have been riddled by injuries and captain Fabricio Coloccini (back), Tim Krul (ankle), Cheick Tiote (hamstring), Hatem Ben Arfa (knee), Davide Santon (hip) and Mathieu Debuchy (hamstring) are among a swathe of players all unlikely to be in contention.

The Portuguese side are fresh off a 6-1 win against Rio Ave in the Liga Sagres and possess prolific Paraguayan hitman Oscar Cardozo, while supremely skilled veteran Pablo Aimar can still prise open a defence at the age of 33.

Turkish side Fenerbahce welcome Lazio to the Sukru Saracoglu Stadyumu in Istanbul.

Having won four of their past five matches and sitting second in the Super Lig, Fenerbahce will be primed to take on their Italian opponents, who are 18 points off the pace and fifth in Serie A.

Both sides will have their key players available for selection as they bid to get the upper hand in the first leg.


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