Now that both Europa and Champions league draws are completed let’s look at how the Italian clubs fared and preview some of the matchups. Italy is well represented in both competitions with four teams remaining in the Europa league and two that still remain in the Champion’s League round of sixteen.
Starting in Europa league there is a key matchup between Atalanta and Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund is a top club in Germany and with Aubameyang leading their attack they can be one of the deadliest attacking forces in Europe. While they look to be the favorites in this tie Atalanta should not be underestimated.
They remained undefeated in European competition in a group that included strong opponents, Lyon and Everton. Both games against Everton Atalanta made a statement with 3-0 and 5-1 respective wins. If Atalanta can repeat that level of play this round of games they can take down Dortmund. With Dortmund struggling domestically they should make sure to come into this focused if they want to play in the Champions League next year.
Next, in the Europa League, is another Italian side against a Bundesliga squad, SSC Napoli vs Red Bull Leipzig. This, in particular, will be an interesting clash between two clubs with very different backgrounds. Napoli is a club that has a rich history and has gone through very rough patches in their history and has even fought from Serie C and found their way back on top in Italy.
While Leipzig, on the other hand, is a fairly young club and has only been around since 2009. Leipzig established as a fifth division team in the Germany and through investors have made a mercurial rise to the top flight where they sit today and are now getting their first stab at European football.
Both Napoli and Leipzig came down from the Champions Leagues and can prove to be a great tie. Napoli has proven to be one of the fiercest opponents in all of Europe this season and with their eyes still firmly on the Scudetto, they might not put their full effort into this matchup. Leipzig as well has enough talent to elevate them to the next round of Europa competition.
Players like Timo Werner, Emil Forsberg, and Naby Keïta have proven to be elite talents and can be major players in this fixture. While Leipzig currently sits second in the Bundesliga they are still a young club and a could elect to focus on Europa in hopes to gain their club some silverware. So even though Napoli might have the edge talent-wise Leipzig’s appetite for success in this competition could give them the edge in this matchup.
Next in the Europa League is between S.S. Lazio and Romanian side FC Steaua Bucuresti. For Lazio, this is a great draw and they should be able to advance against FCSB without much difficulty.
Even with Lazio’s focus this season on gaining a top four spot domestically it should not hold them back in this matchup. Ciro Immobile has proved to be an elite scorer for Lazio and if he is leading the Biancocelesti in these matches then Lazio should have no issue advancing to the next round of the Europa League.
The last Italian fixture in the Europa League is between the renowned AC Milan vs Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad. Milan finished first in their group while Razgrad finished second.
This is Milan’s first season back in European football since their Champions League appearance in the 13/14 season so fans should be pleased with such a favorable draw. Going up against Razgrad in this round puts the Rossoneri in a great position to advance to the round of sixteen.
With the trouble, Milan have experienced domestically winning the Europa League might be their only way to return to the Champions League next season. Even though it’s still the round of thirty-two Milan have had a long road to get to this point with two rounds of qualification they had to go through just to reach the Group Stage.
With that in mind, Milan will likely go full force into this knockout round and in the rest of the competition. Milan will be looking to these games to spotlight their return to Europe with commanding wins. They have had troubles domestically but have played some of their best games when playing in the Europa League and surely would like to keep that momentum going. With André Silva being the joint top scorer in the Europa League, he’ll be one to keep an eye on in this round of matches. While Ludogorets will be looking to upset Milan it seems unlikely that they will be able to top Milan whose Champion’s League dreams are on the line.
In the Champion’s League, there are two Italian teams that advanced to the Round of 16. The first match-up being AS Roma vs Shakhtar Donetsk. This season Roma have exceeded all preseason expectations. They finished the Champion’s League group stage tied for first with Chelsea and ahead of Spanish giants Atletico Madrid and currently sit 4th in Serie A.
This success was not anticipated after losing club legend Francesco Totti and their manager Luciano Spaletti to Italian rivals Inter. Their opponents Shakhtar Donetsk should not be underestimated after finishing 2nd in a group with Napoli and Manchester City. Shakhtar is fully capable of giving Roma a run for their money and spoil their chances of advancing to the next round.
The Ukrainian side is no stranger to Champions League football and even beat Roma back in the 10/11 season to advance to the quarterfinals. They were able to knock Napoli out of second place and defeat Manchester City who has been one of the hottest teams in Europe all season. Roma will probably be the favorites going in but Shakhtar Donetsk has a real chance to surprise everyone and advance in place of Roma.
For the last European match with an Italian side, Juventus is going up against Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur. Many will probably look at PSG vs. Real Madrid or Barcelona vs. Chelsea as the best matches but this matchup may prove to be the best of them all.
Both teams have a daunting task ahead of them to advance to the quarterfinals. After both teams escaped difficult groups the road to the quarterfinals did not get any easier. With Juventus coming off a bitter defeat to Real Madrid in the final last year they are surely looking to redeem themselves this season. However, Tottenham has proven to be one of the most dominants team in European competition this season. After finishing first in their group that included formidable opponents like Borussia Dortmund and defending Champions League winners Real Madrid the Spurs are a major threat.
Juve experienced issues with their defense earlier this season after the summer departure of Center Back Leo Bonucci but seemed to have improved over the season. However, if they are not in sync in their matchups against Spurs they will be punished.
Tottenham’s Harry Kane has emerged over the last few seasons as a world-class striker and is probably Juve’s biggest threat in this matchup. Over the 2017 calendar year, Harry Kane has scored 50 goals a feat only Robert Lewandowski, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Edison Cavani share. With company like that it is clear that he can wreak havoc on even the best of defenses. That being said the Bianconeri are no strangers to scoring goals with the club being number one in goals scored domestically this season. The high power attack of Juve will be in for a challenge if reports are correct on Tottenham’s injuries.
With defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama, whose last name fittingly translates to Animal, and star center back Toby Alderweireld, who when paired with Belgian defensive partner Jan Vertonghen are one of the stingiest defenses in Europe, set to return in January. These returns will make for an interesting match for Juventus and honestly make it hard to predict who will prevail out of this matchup. With Spurs looking to prove they belong with the best in Europe and Juve looking to redeem a bitter end to their last Champion’s League season, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will emerge as victors.