The eight UEFA Europa League round of 16 ties conclude on Thursday with Hamburger SV still on course to play in the inaugural final at their home stadium. Juventus and Liverpool FC will look to join them in Friday's quarter-final draw, where clubs from the same country can be paired together.
Bruno Labbadia's side head to Belgium holding a 3-1 first-leg lead against RSC Anderlecht – and with a place in the showpiece match at their Arena Hamburg on 12 May very much a possibility. The closest they have come to lifting the UEFA Europa League trophy was when they were losing UEFA Cup finalists in 1981/82, whereas Juventus and Liverpool are chasing an unprecedented fourth triumph.
Juve beat Fulham FC 3-1 in Turin, but the 1976/77, 1989/90 and 1992/93 UEFA Cup winners will not get an easy ride in the away leg, with the London club yet to lose a European home game. Liverpool – whose three UEFA Cup successes of 1972/73, 1975/76 and 2000/01 place them level with the Bianconeri and FC Internazionale Milano at the top of the all-time leaderboard – may have a harder task still.
Defeated 1-0 at LOSC Lille Métropole, Rafael Benítez's team have the comfort of playing the return match at Anfield, but given the class Rudi Garcia's side have shown this season, they will not expect a walkover. Indeed, there seems to be plenty to fight for in all the round of 16 ties, barring perhaps R. Standard de Liège's meeting with Panathinaikos FC, as the Belgian outfit brought home a 3-1 cushion last Thursday.
The other four first-leg matches were drawn. Reduced to nine men at Club Atlético de Madrid, Sporting Clube de Portugal held on for a 0-0 – suspensions could still undermine their chances – while Lisbon rivals SL Benfica may have to improve on the 1-1 scoreline they registered at home to Olympique de Marseille. The opening encounters between Russian champions FC Rubin Kazan and German counterparts VfL Wolfsburg, and between Valencia CF and last term's UEFA Cup runners-up Werder Bremen, also ended 1-1.
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