Europa League quarter-finals: Holders Sevilla host Zenit St Petersburg
Two Europa League champions clash in the competition’s quarter-finals, in which could well be one of the ties of the round.
Last season’s winners Sevilla are odds-on at 8/13 with Coral to triumph in the first leg in the south of Spain, and have a long and accomplished history of performing in knockout football.
However, standing in their way are Zenit St Petersburg, and coach Andre Villas-Boas knows just what it takes to win the Europa League, having done so with Porto in the 2010/11 campaign.
So, what does this mean?
Effectively, two very interesting matches. Both teams are very hard to beat, and Zenit are unbeaten in their last four matches in the Russian league. However, going into this clash, the away side have four players suspended, including Hulk, Danny, Domenico Criscito and Igor Smolnikov, which means Villas-Boas has to shuffle his pack.
Going into the tie, Villas-Boas was reluctant to discuss how he would handle the absentee situation: “Normally we don’t reveal our line-up before,” he said. “We have to think hard since we have four players that are suspended and we have to think about the objective.”
Strikers Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Jose Rondon will no doubt be relied upon to find the net. The former has been a bit-part player for Zenit this season, and has four goals in 17 appearances across all competitions. His odds of 16/5 in the anytime market, though could be deemed as good value.
His Venezuelan attacking teammate Rondon has, by contrast, been fairly prolific this term. The 25-year-old has dispatched 17 times in 36 appearances so far, including five continental goals, bearing in mind the Russian side also competed in the Champions League. At 13/5 in the anytime market, he could definitely be worth a punt!
A haul of 20 goals in 45 appearances this term has elevated Colombian centre forward Carlos Bacca into the status as one of the best attackers in Europe. To score first he is 7/2 and definitely worth considering, especially with defender Criscito suspended.
The Bathtubs are unbeaten in 10 matches across all competitions, which includes five consecutive wins in La Liga and with Europa League victories over Villarreal sandwiched in between.
Last time in the first leg, it was Vitolo who hit the opening goal in the first minute and the 25-year-old is 9/4 to dispatch what would be his fourth goal of the competition.
Unai Emery’s side also held Barcelona to a 2-2 draw last time out in the league, when Kevin Gameiro equalised with just over five minutes to go. The striker, who provides the perfect foil for Bacca, is 9/2 to net the last goal.