Basel 1893 (Switzerland) vs. Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine)
The first thing that pops into my mind when I see, hear about, or mention FC Basel is that they’re the team that basically kicked Manchester United out of the UEFA Champions League last season! Although having failed to do so well after that victory, I think that they’re still a strong team (clearly visible from their performance in the Raiffeisen Super League this season and last season’s cup-double as well)! They only lost once to Videoton in their Europa League campaign this season, managing to hold other teams and finishing second in Group G. Murat Yakin is really doing a good job!
Juande Ramos’ men, in the same manner, only lost once to Napoli in their Europa League campaign, but still managed to beat Napoli for the first place at the top of Group F. They also scored 16 goals in the group stages; making them not only worthy of the number one spot at the top of Group F and one of the toughest teams in this season’s Europa League’s round of 32, but the club with most goals in the competition so far too!
I think that we will all be as excited to see Giuliano de Paula as we will to see Zozulya and Kalinic! I think that Fedetsky will also be an asset for Dnipro, being that he’s already scored 2 in 5 in the competition. I think that seeing something like that from a right-back is really encouraging! Number 99, (yes, ninety-nine) Matheus could also do well for Dnipro.
From Basel, I don’t think we’ll go without hearing the commentators say “Strelleeeeeeeeer!” for as long as Marco Streller will be in the competition! I think that he’s been absolutely brilliant for his team in this competition and I doubt anyone would disagree! 21-year-old Fabian Schär also looks to impress! He’s been good in the competition so far. And last but not least, I think that we will all be keeping an eye on Alexander Frei (as well as Fabian) in what could be his last season for Basel.
My prediction for the first leg of this game to be played in Basel would be a fairly comfortable win for the Ukrainian side. For the second leg of this game to be played in Dnipropetrovsk, I predict a low-scoring tie.
1st Leg: Basel 1893 1-3 Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
2nd Leg: Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 1-1 Basel 1893
AC Sparta Praha (Czech Republic) vs. Chelsea (England)
Two of their goalkeepers might share the same last name and come from the same country, but this doesn’t mean that these two clubs will play with love and sympathy against each other on February 14th! Sorry, cupid!
Vitezslav Lavicka and his men go into the Europa League Round of 32 thanks to an overall brilliant performance throughout the group-stages of the competition. Having finished second in a difficult Group I and having lost only once to Lyon in their Europa League campaign, Sparta are one of the “big boys” in this competition. What they have shown domestically has also been impressive, as they only stand three points behind Plzen in the Gambrinus Liga. With this, Sparta won’t be too keen on what the odds suggest when they play in front of anyone, not even the Champions of Europe!
The Champions of Europe, Chelsea FC, on the other hand, have had a very shaky season that’s been marked with poor results and the fans hating the manager more and more every game. With Rafa Benitez, Chelsea will be looking to save their fans more blushes by trying to bag something for their trophy cabinet this season. With this being a motivating factor for the Chelsea side, this match could be a very interesting one! Being the Champions of Europe, of course, gives them some sort of an upper hand over Sparta, but again, anything is possible in European football!
From Rafa Benitez’s side, I think that Eden Hazard will be closely watched by the Prague defense. Juan Mata, Super Frank Lampard, and Ramires Nascimiento have a great combination and can sometimes excel in delivery. Once new boy Demba Ba gets good balls delivered to him, that’s the end of you! Fernando Torres, on his good days, can also be a great threat. Last but not least, with a player like Oscar, whose goalscoring record in European competitions this season is impeccable (5 goals in 6), I think Ondřej Švejdík & co. will be very keen.
On Vitezslav’s side, one player who’s going to be closely watched is Václav Kadlec. The 20-year-old seems very promising for the Prague side, having performed rather well this season (both domestically and in European competitions). Ladislav Krejčí, having scored the most goals for Sparta in the competition, despite not doing too well domestically this season, is also going to be closely watched by left-back Ashley Cole & co. Cameroon international Leony Kweuke will also be a threat to the Chelsea defense. A lot of young talent on the Prague side to watch out for!
My prediction for the first leg of this game to be played in Prague would be a very narrow Sparta win. For the second leg to be played in West London, I predict a strong Chelsea comeback and for them to advance on aggregate.
1st Leg: AC Sparta Praha 2-1 Chelsea
2nd Leg: Chelsea 3-0 AC Sparta Praha
Written by Ange Marline