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Day of reckoning awaits last 16

Published: Friday 14 March 2014, 13.19CET
ACF Fiorentina can eliminate the final hosts, while last season's winning UEFA Europa League coach – and losing finalists – are still in the running as the round of 16 concludes.
Day of reckoning awaits last 16
Fiorentina team-mates flock to Mario Gomez after his equaliser in Turin ©AFP/Getty Images
 
 
Published: Friday 14 March 2014, 13.19CET

Day of reckoning awaits last 16

ACF Fiorentina can eliminate the final hosts, while last season's winning UEFA Europa League coach – and losing finalists – are still in the running as the round of 16 concludes.

It is not looking good for PFC Ludogorets Razgrad, Tottenham Hotspur FC or FC Viktoria Plzeň, but the other five ties are very much in the balance as the UEFA Europa League round of 16 comes to a close.

Juventus have more reason than most to yearn for a place in the final, since the decider will be staged at their own home stadium in Turin, yet their situation is a complicated one after Mario Gomez scored late to earn ACF Fiorentina a 1-1 draw in the all-Italian first leg. While Juve beat the Viola over two legs in the 1990 UEFA Cup final, they head for Florence having never won in five European away games against fellow Serie A sides.

It is even more up close and personal in Andalusia, where Sevilla FC are visiting their city rivals Real Betis Balompié still reeling from a 2-0 loss in the first leg – their heaviest home defeat on UEFA duty, with the aptly named Salvador Sevilla (once a trainee with Sevilla) hitting what could be a crucial second goal for the Liga strugglers.

The closest tie of all is the one between FC Salzburg and FC Basel 1893 who played out a 0-0 draw in Switzerland. It was some achievement by the Swiss team to shut out the UEFA Europa League's top scorers this term – who boast the campaign's most prolific striker in seven-goal Jonatan Soriano – though keeping them at bay in Austria will be a tougher task still.

Elsewhere, SSC Napoli must overturn a 1-0 deficit at home to FC Porto if coach Rafael Benítez is to stay in contention for a third success in this competition – and a second in as many seasons, since he led Chelsea FC in the 2013 final. He could yet meet SL Benfica again, with the runners-up in last year's Amsterdam decider 3-1 up going into the home leg of their tie against Tottenham.

Meanwhile, the bottom side in the Russian Premier-Liga will look to once more punch above their weight when AZ Alkmaar bring their 1-0 lead to Ramenskoye – FC Anji Makhachkala's European home. Visiting coach Dick Advocaat lifted the UEFA Cup with FC Zenit in 2007/08, and his knowledge of Russian football may prove to be crucial on Thursday.

Last updated: 15/03/14 20.09CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuropaleague/news/newsid=2072314.html#day+reckoning+awaits+last

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