Anzhi Makhachkala (Russia) vs. Hannover 96 (Germany)
Anzhi, one of the big boys in the Russian Premier Liga, only just managed to go through to the Round of 32 of this competition thanks to a strong performance in a difficult Group A. Having lost only twice in their Europa League campaign this season, they bagged 10 points at the group stages to progress next to Liverpool FC. Guus Hiddink’s men were tough opponents throughout the competition, but the round of 32 holds a lot more pressure than the group stages; a fact that brings about the question of whether or not they’re strong enough under pressure. Doing rather well domestically this season, Anzhi won’t be looking to lose their form in Europe.
Hannover, on the other hand, being relatively stronger in Europe than their opponents but weaker domestically, managed to finish top of Group L in the group stages of the competition; and all this without a single loss! Mirko Slomka’s men are going to be serious contenders for the title this year!
The first player to pop into the picture when anyone mentions Anzhi to me is Cameroonian international, Samuel Eto’o, surely! Having scored 3 in 6 for Anzhi in the Europa League this season, he’s going to be a threat to the Hannover defense. Lacina Trore has had a magnificent season domestically, and will return from the Africa Cup of Nations with a desire to win trophies he didn’t manage to win with Ivory Coast this year. He’s scored 9 goals in 16 games for Anzhi domestically (RPL). Having lost Chris Samba to QPR, Anzhi will need to look for someone to fill that void in defense as well in the Europa League so as to be able to avoid conceding to a strong Hannover side.
Hannover’s Mame Diouf will be closely watched by the Anzhi defense because of his growing form and his consistency in front of goal. Being as he’s the top scorer for Hannover in both the Bundesliga and the Europa League this season, he’s going to be an asset for Slomka’s men. He scored 3 goals in 4 appearances for Hannover in the Europa League and has scored 9 goals and assisted 4 in 17 matches for Hannover in the German Bundesliga this season. He’s definitely one to look out for! Didier Ya Konan had also been sensational in terms of goals in the Europa League this season, having scored three goals in 5 appearances for Slomka’s side. He scored one goal in three matches for Ivory Coast, as well as kept a strong form in the Bundesliga, despite having scored only 2 goals in 16 matches for Hannover. Winger, Szabolcs Huszti is also going to pose a threat to Anzhi, as he’s been in great goalscoring and providing from for his club domestically and in the Europa League as well; he’s scored 7 and assisted 10 in 19 games in the German Bundesliga this season. He’s also scored four goals in 8 appearances for Hannover in the Europa League this season…Impressed yet?
My prediction for the first leg of this game to be played in Moscow would be Hannover win. For the second leg of this game to be played in Hannover, I predict a draw.
1st Leg: Anzhi Makhachkala 1-3 Hannover 96
2nd Leg: Hannover 96 1-1 Anzhi Makhachkala
BATE Borisov (Belarus) vs. Fenerbahçe SK (Turkey)
Viktor Goncharenko and his men go into this competition’s round of 32 pumped with the confidence any team that has played in the Champions League going into the Europa League possesses. Despite having lost most of their matches and being kicked out of the UEFA Champions League in a difficult Group F where Bayern Munich and Valencia emerged victors, the Champions of Belarus are not going to be a walkover. Why? Because they’re the team that beat last season’s runners-up, FC Bayern Munchen this season! Although things went downhill after that, there’s no reason BATE shouldn’t be one of the contenders for this year’s Europa League.
Aycut Kocaman’s men, having suffered the same fate in the the very early qualifying stages of the UEFA Champions League, although to a slightly less embarrassing extent, were a very strong side in the Europa League. They finished top of their group with 13 points from 6 games and lost only once in their Europa League campaign. They have also been a very strong side in the Super Lig and are very strong contenders for this year’s trophy.
Vitali Rodionov and Renan Bressan were the top scorers for Goncharenko’s side in the UEFA Champions League before their elimination from their competition, having both scored twice in 6 matches for BATE. Renan is now, however, an Alania Vladikavkaz player; 28 days and counting! Vitali and Dmitri Mozolevski will probably have to pick up from there in what concerns BATE attack. For Fenerbahçe, Dirk Kuyt is going to be a strong force, as will be Moussa Sow. I think many eyes will also be on Brazilian midfielder, Cristian, as well as Portuguese international and Champion of Europe with Chelsea, Raul Meireles.
My prediction for the first leg of this game to be played in Grodno would be a draw. For the second leg of this match to be played in Istanbul, my prediction would be a win for Fenerbahçe.
1st Leg: BATE Borisov 2-2 Fenerbahçe
2nd Leg: Fenerbahçe SK 3-1 AC BATE Borisov
Written by Ange Marline