The triumvirate of Premier League teams – Tottenham, Chelsea and Newcastle – have won through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League after seeing off their opponents last night.
Spurs missed the scintillating Welsh winger Gareth Bale who is suspended, and surrendered their three goal first leg lead to Inter Milan at the San Siro, only saving themselves in extra time with a goal by Emmanual Adebayor, who was then forced to suffer racist chants from disaffected Inter Milan fans. The 4-1 loss to Inter followed the 3-0 win by Spurs in the first leg, with the away goal being sufficient to see off Milan as the match entered extra time, much to the relief of manager Andre Villas-Boas who commented “We are happy to go through. We look forward to the draw”.
Similarly, Papiss Demba Cisse scored a last minute goal against the resolute ten-man Anzhi Makhachkala to put Newcastle through to the next round. The Russian side had their chances at St James Park, with Mbark Boussoufa hitting the bar in a late free kick in the last minute of normal time for instance, but the Senegalese striker’s header put Newcastle into the quarter-finals of European competition for the first time in eight years.
Chelsea were forced to graft for their 3-1 win against Steaua Bucharest, with the Romanian side re-taking the aggregate lead before losing 3-2 overall. Fernando Torres scored the winning goal that took Chelsea through, and the team now faces a barrage of matches with the FA Cup replay against Manchester United on 1 April meaning Chelsea must play 6 matches in 16 days after next week’s international break. The team is currently fourth in the Premier League and there is considerable pressure to deliver Champions League qualification for next season, after the ignominy of missing out this time round. Manager Rafael Benitez remains upbeat about the forthcoming challenges, saying “Top teams want to be in all competitions until the end. Since I came here I think we are playing about 9 games each month. We knew it would be difficult but we have confidence in the players and hopefully we can manage well and progress in all of them”
The five European clubs remaining are:
Rubin Kazan (Russia)
With the draw due at 11.40 today, following on from the Champions League draw at 11.00 GMT in Nyon, Chelsea remain favourites to lift the Champions League trophy. The majority of bookmakers, including Coral and William Hill, are offering odds of 11/4 for Chelsea, with Tottenham second favourite at odds of 10/3 from bookmakers Ladbrokes. Benfica and Lazio are strong contenders, however, with odds of 5/1 and 15/2 respectively, and the trio of Premier League teams cannot dismiss Rubin Hazan as a threat also.
The Toon army are thrilled with the Newcastle win last night, as the club chases elusive silverware for its cabinet, and manager Alan Pardew is upbeat about the team’s chances, saying “Of course I think we can win it. I do think we’ve put out one of the best sides in the competition” but the bookmakers are not so sure and Newcastle languish at odds of 14/1 (from bookmakers Ladbrokes and Coral) to win the Europa League, well behind Chelsea and Tottenham in the reckoning.