After three major clubs dropped out of the UEFA Europa League round of 32, the tournament suddenly looks wide open with a number of teams in with a great shout of winning the coveted trophy.
Liverpool, Atletico Madrid, and Ajax all fell at the first knockout stage, while Napoli crashed out 5-0 on aggregate to Viktoria Plzen and Lyon were dumped out by a last-minute Tottenham goal.
Looking at who is left, Zenit have a great chance to win the title after being drawn away to Swiss side, Basel, in their first leg of the last-16, while European Champions, Chelsea, will fancy their chances against Steaua Bucharest.
Unfortunately, the Europa League is a second-priority tournament, and, as much as fans who bet on Premier League would like their teams to win it, domestic success is far more important to the longevity of clubs.
League priority over European success will be both Tottenham and Inter’s downfall – these teams desperate to stay in touch with domestic Champions League places and up against each other in March, while Newcastle’s trip to Russia against Anzhi Makhachkala will not help their chances of staving off Premier League relegation.
Fans shouldn’t be surprised if we see another couple of giants fall this time around and by the semi-finals there will be at least two major underdogs ready to do battle. Both Fenerbahce and Plzen have been in good European form of late and Bordeaux have a great chance of beating Benfica – who are chasing the Portuguese title this season.
Make no mistake, one of the Russian clubs will be in the last four and should form one side of the final in Amsterdam this summer. Both Zenit and Anzhi are taking this tournament seriously, while Rubin Kazan proved their intentions to sports betting news pundits by knocking out defending champions, Atletico.