A month ago, the Europa League was whittled down to 8 remaining sides. These 8 sides will all has aspirations of winning the title and qualifying for the Champions League as a result, although there are 5 tough matches remaining for each one. To remind you who these 8 sides are, two come from Italy and Ukraine while Germany, Russia, Spain and Belgium each boast one representative: Sevilla, Zenit St Petersburg, Club Brugge, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Dynamo Kyiv, Fiorentina, Wolfsburg and Napoli. The draw was made a day after the last ties and this is how it panned out:
The draw has thrown together the two weakest sides on paper (Dnipro and Brugge) as well as possibly the two strongest (Wolfsburg and Napoli). Sevilla’s defence of their title has handed them the sole remanining Russian side, Zenit while Everton’s downfall Kyiv will face Tottenham’s slayers Fiorentina. The tie of the round is most certainly the last to be drawn, as Wolfsburg Napoli until this point was the expected final. It’s tough to make a prediction for that, however it will almost certainly be a wonderful match. The draw initially stated that the two Ukrainian sides would be playing at home on the same match day however that won’t be possible due to Dnipro currently playing their home matches in Kyiv’s stadium as a result of the Russian conflict. To avoid this, the first leg of Brugge v Dnipro will be played in Belgium.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on the continued presence of the Champions League drop-outs in the latter stages of the Europa League. Taking a look at their records, I found out that every year at least one of these so called drop-outs have reached the semi final stage. My statement was that it was fair to say that have dominated in the past. Yet only one side from the Champions League groups have made it this far this year: Zenit. It’s early days however it would appear that the move to giving UCL incentive for the winners has had the opposite effect to what I thought. Rather than increase the competitiveness of former UCL sides, it has raised the games of the original UEL teams. It is worth pointing out that a conclusion can’t be drawn on the basis of one year, however it’s certainly a factor worth keeping an eye on.
As usual, this page will be updated with the results the day after they occur and will provide TV details for the relative ties. The matches will be played this thursday (16th April) and next (23rd April). We are now approaching summer time and therefore all matches are kicking off at 20:05 British time, including the Zenit home match.
First leg: Sevilla 2 – 1 Zenit
- Ryazantsev (Zenit, 29′)
- Bacca (Sevilla, 73′)
- Suárez (Sevilla, 88′)
Second leg: Zenit 2 – 2 Sevilla
- Bacca (Sevilla, 6′ pen)
- Rondón (Zenit, 48′)
- Hulk (Zenit, 72′)
- Gameiro (Sevilla, 85′)
First leg (BT Sport 2): Brugge 0 – 0 Dnipro
Second leg (ESPN): Dnipro 1 – 0 Brugge
- Shakhov (Dnipro, 82′)
First leg (BT Sport 1): Kyiv 1 – 1 Fiorentina
- Lens (Kyiv, 36′)
- Babacar (Fiorentina, 90+2′)
Second leg (ITV4): Fiorentina 2 – 0 Kyiv
- Gómez (Fiorentina, 43′)
- Vargas (Fiorentina, 90+4′)
First leg (ITV4): Wolfsburg 1 – 4 Napoli
- Higuaín (Napoli, 15′)
- Hamšik (Napoli, 23′, 64′)
- Gabbiadini (Napoli, 77′)
- Bendtner (Wolfsburg, 80′)
Second leg (BT Sport 1): Napoli 2 – 2 Wolfsburg
- Callejón (Napoli, 50′)
- Mertens (Napoli, 65′)
- Klose (Wolfsburg, 72′)
- Perisic (Wolfsburg, 73′)
Now that we have our semi-final line up, we can finally start to accurately predict which side will be lifting the trophy on Wednesday 27th May 2015. Napoli continued their seemingly inevitable walk towards that final with victory over fellow favourites Wolfsburg however no-one should be ruled out. Other Italian side Fiorentina have already dispatched Tottenham and Dynamo Kyiv and will feel they can beat anyone. For the first time since the drop-out system began, no champions league sides have made the semi-finals as Zenit lost to holders Sevilla. A sign that the gulf is closing or just a one off? Make your own mind up! In the remaining match, Dnipro continued Ukrainian interest by beating Club Brugge.
Talking about Ukrainian sides, it’s worth noting that UEFA are probably very relieved that only one won as Zenit lost. The ongoing unrest in Ukraine over Russia had led to the possibility that UEFA would fix the semi-final draw so the Ukrainian sides avoided the Russian one. Zenit’s loss has also meant that the nightmare scenario of a Russia-Ukraine final has also been avoided. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. As will you when you realise there are only two more Europa League posts following this one!
Next time: The draw for the, and the results of the, semi-finals