We are down to the last 16 of the Europa League and Chelsea, Tottenham and Newcastle are flying the flag for English clubs in pursuit of European glory. Tottenham v Inter Milan is arguably the tie of the round and Andre Villas-Boas will be eager to see Spurs progress ahead of his quest to be the first manager to win the Europa League with two different clubs.
There are some excellent fixtures to look forward to and below are the ten key facts ahead of the last 16 ties.
1. The round of 16 participants come from 11 countries, with representation split as follows:
3 clubs – England, Russia
2 clubs – Italy
1 club – Czech Republic, France, Germany, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey
2. Of the eight clubs that transferred to the competition after the UEFA Champions League group stage, only three survive: Chelsea FC, SL Benfica and FC Zenit St Petersburg.
3. Only three remaining clubs have graced the UEFA Europa League round of 16 before: Zenit (reached 2010/11 round of 16), Benfica (2010/11 semi-finals, 2009/10 quarter-finals) and FC Rubin Kazan (2009/10 round of 16).
4. UEFA Champions League holders Chelsea are among four previous winners of the European Cup, along with FC Internazionale Milano, Benfica and FC Steaua Bucureşti.
5. Three other clubs in the last 16 have won a major UEFA club competition title: Zenit, S.S. Lazio and Tottenham Hotspur FC. Newcastle United FC won the non-UEFA-backed Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
6. There are two reigning domestic champions competing in the round of 16: Zenit (Russia) and FC Basel 1893 (Switzerland). One is guaranteed to reach the quarter-finals as the pair meet in the last 16.
7. Including qualifying and play-off fixtures, the clubs who have required most games in Europe this season to reach the last 16 are Basel, FC Anji Makhachkala and FC Viktoria Plzeň, each with 14. Anji and Plzeň are the UEFA Europa League’s longest survivors this season, having entered in the second qualifying round. Basel began their European campaign at the equivalent stage of the UEFA Champions League.
8. Rubin and Steaua are the only surviving participants that have appeared in all four editions of the UEFA Europa League.
9. Tottenham’s André Villas-Boas is bidding to become the first coach to win the UEFA Europa League twice, having captured it with FC Porto in 2010/11. Chelsea’s Rafael Benítez won the UEFA Cup with Valencia CF in 2004.
10. Only two coaches involved in the round of 16 have lifted the European Champion Clubs’ Cup – Anji’s Guus Hiddink, a winner with PSV Eindhoven in 1988, and Benítez with Liverpool in 2005. Additionally, Villas-Boas was the Chelsea coach for part of their triumphant 2011/12 UEFA Champions League campaign before being replaced by Roberto Di Matteo.