Europa League Preview: Chelsea, Arsenal take next steps

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The Europa League quarterfinals begin Thursday, with Arsenal home to Napoli in the most tantalizing of four solid match-ups.

[ MORE: UCL summations for each quarterfinalist ]

All of the first legs kick off at 3 p.m. ET


Arsenal v. Napoli

Alexandre Lacazette says the match-up with Serie A’s serial runners-up is a toss-up.

“Napoli has a big history like us. Now they are second in the table after Juventus and making a big difference with other important teams. They are playing very well. They have come from the Champions League but from a strong group with Liverpool. They were very competitive in this group. I know it’s going to be very difficult for us but we have confidence.”

Benfica v. Eintracht Frankfurt

If any of these match-ups are a true toss-up, it’s this one. And it comes right down to table standing, relative to league. Benfica is in a dogfight for first on the Portuguese table, while Eintracht Frankfurt is scrapping to stay in the Bundesliga’s Top Four.

Eintracht and Benfica both have brilliant attacks (and imagine if Benfica hadn’t loaned Raul Jimenez to Wolves). This one could be as good as it gets in the UEL.

Villarreal v. Valencia

Two sides who’ve met each other often and also both had success in Europe square off for a semifinal spot. Villarreal remains in a La Liga relegation place and this game comes three days before a six-pointer against Girona, while Valencia has a placement fight on its hands, too (albeit to re-qualify for the Europa League).

Slavia Prague v. Chelsea

Maurizio Sarri is not going to be sleeping on his Czech opponents, especially just three rounds from a Champions League place.

“They are very dangerous,” Sarri said. “They scored six goals in two matches against Sevilla. We need to be very compact and to defend very well. Especially on crosses they attack the box with five or six players, and they are dangerous on counter-attacks. It won’t be easy for us.”