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Tottenham-toppling Benfica sniff Europa League semis after draw

| 21.03.2014

Benfica have been gifted a golden opportunity to end a monster 52-year European trophy drought after drawing 22/1 outsiders AZ Alkmaar in the Europa League quarter-finals, and are 4/1 to go the distance.

Last season’s runners-up have impressed in continental combat throughout 2013/14, being evicted from the Champions League group stage despite a 10-point tally then marking their Europa League return with three wins in four games.

AZ warrant kudos for getting this far, but have drawn five of their last nine Europa League fixtures and scored just 11 in 11, a strike rate that won’t have Benfica’s defence – claimants of 15 clean sheets in 19 matches – quivering.

The Portuguese champions-in-waiting are pretty handy down the other end too, firing five times in their double header with Tottenham, and are unbeaten in 26 outings as they conduct a four-pronged silverware challenge.

Final hosts and 11/8 favourites Juventus should in theory be satisfied with drawing Lyon, given that it is the first time that they have been granted a home second leg and their opponents are 16/1 to win the competition.

However, the last surviving French side aren’t the no-hopers that their odds imply. The European veterans have lost once in 90 minutes at home since August and are gaining confidence in attack, grabbing nine goals in their last four games.

The prospect of La Liga’s cuddly relationship with the UEFA Cup/Europa League continuing is helped hugely by the two Spanish survivors swerving Benfica, Juventus and one another.

Valencia (13/2) and Sevilla (8/1), who between them have authored three of the nation’s five tournament triumphs over the past decade, will face Basel and Porto respectively.

The prices indicate that Valencia have the simpler task – Porto are fourth favourites at 15/2, while Basel are joint-last at 22/1 – but Sevilla’s record of only one away loss in 12 enhances their chances of avoiding a first-leg defeat in Portugal.

Full draw:
AZ Alkmaar v Benfica
Lyon v Juventus
Basel v Valencia
Porto v Sevilla

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Alex Fortune