Borussia Dortmund drew Tottenham Hotspur Friday morning in the Europa League Round of 16 draw to set-up a battle of teams currently in second place in arguably the two best football leagues in the world.
Come on, guys. It’s at least possible that the English league is second-best, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, fourth-in-the-table Bayer Leverkusen drew La Liga’s current fourth-place club Villareal.
Dortmund and Leverkusen advanced relatively comfortably yesterday, both expanding on first-leg advantages with decisive victories in the return legs of their battles with Portugues sides FC Porto and Sporting Club de Portugal, respectively. Tottenham and Villareal had similar stories in advancing over Italian clubs Fiorentina and Napoli.
Dortmund will play their first match at home. Leverkusen will open in Spain.
Elsewhere, Shakhtar Donetsk, who advanced at the expense of Schalke 04, will face Belgian side Anderlecht.
Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool FC, who slipped by FC Augsburg yesterday on the strength of a handball penalty conversion, will battle long-time rivals Manchester United. The fierce Premiership foes have never faced one another in European competition.
Two Spanish sides provide another match-up of familiar faces, with Valencia and Athletic Bilbao drawing one another.
Two-time defending champion Sevilla will have to get by Swiss side Basel if they want to make it an historic three-consecutive Europa League titles, though Basel will have the added motivation of the possibility of a home-stadium advantage in unseating Sevilla as title-holders, as St. Jakob Park is hosting this year’s Europa League final.
Miroslav Klose helped Lazio become the last-surviving Italian side and will face Czech power Sparta Prague. SC Braga, the only Portuguese side to get through yesterday, takes on Fenerbahce, Turkey’s last-remaining European representative.
Europa League competition will resume the Thursday following the coming English week, which crams three Bundesliga match days into a span of ten days, providing perhaps the toughest test of the clubs’ depth as they’ve faced this season. The Round of 16 first leg will be contested March 10, and the return leg a week later on March 17.
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