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Juventus must run Europa League gauntlet after tough draw

| 11.04.2014

Antonio Conte’s Juventus are facing a stern test of their Europa League credentials after being handed arguably the toughest semi-final opponents available in the form of Benfica.

The Bianconeri remain the 21/20 favourites to win the trophy, but if they are to taste European glory in the final at their very own Juventus Stadium, they must first navigate a two-leg encounter with the Portuguese giants – starting with a visit to the Estadio da Luz.

Benfica have an incredible unbeaten home record that stretches back to a 2-0 Champions League loss to Barcelona in October 2012 and though they are arguably at a disadvantage in playing the first-leg at home, manager Jorge Jesus will be eager to establish a commanding lead.

Juve could therefore face something of an onslaught in Portugal, as the Glorioso look to establish enough daylight between themselves and their opponents to render the return leg a formality.

Benfica can be backed at 19/5 to go one better than their 2013 Europa League final appearance and lift the trophy this season, though that is likely to hinge on the outcome of the first game.

Juventus have won 15 of their last 16 home games in all competitions and, provided they are still in the tie, a victory in the return leg looks likely.

Elsewhere, Sevilla are set to go toe-to-toe with perennial La Liga rivals Valencia in another tasty all-Spanish encounter.

The Andalusians have already despatched Betis in this competition and at 10/3 remain dark horses for the title – particularly after an impressive 4-1 hammering of the heavily-fancied Porto in the last round of fixtures.

Valencia, meanwhile, may just be happy to still be in the competition after recovering from a 3-0 first-leg loss to Basel with a 5-0 win at the Mestalla to progress.

Home advantage will most likely be crucial again, with the hosts claiming victory in 11 of the previous 14 meetings between the clubs.

But with Sevilla still chasing Champions League qualification while Los Che have little else to play for, it could be the 5/1 Europa League outsiders who triumph.

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

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Jack Beresford

Jack Beresford is a content writer with over five years of experience in writing about sport and betting, including a two-year spell with Axonn Media. Contributes articles to HereIsTheCity and Lad Bible, while previous credits include Bwin, FTB Pro, Bleacher Report and the QBE rugby. Avid follower of tennis, rugby union, motorsport and football, Jack also writes about poker for Cardspiel.com alongside Guardian journalist Dominic Wells.