EUROPA LEAGUE

Tottenham, Chelsea and Newcastle eye quarter-final berths in Europa League

Tottenham, Chelsea and Newcastle all have a shot of advancing in European competition

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 4:27am
 

Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have their hearts set on higher things than the Europa League next season as both target Champions League qualification via top-four finishes in the English Premier League.

But both London sides will nevertheless be seeking to book quarter-final berths on today - even if Chelsea will have to do things the hard way after a first-leg defeat at Steaua Bucharest.

Rafael Benitez's men lost 1-0 in Romania but, having recovered from two goals down at Old Trafford to earn an FA Cup replay at the weekend, they will be hoping for a similar comeback at Stamford Bridge. That would keep alive Benitez's ambition of putting at least one trophy on the sideboard before leaving in the summer after a difficult time of it as interim coach.

Spurs, on the other hand, appear bound for the last eight after whipping a pale Inter Milan side 3-0 at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham coach Andre Villas-Boas knows only too well how poisoned is the Chelsea chalice having supped from it himself, only to be fired midway through last season.

But the Portuguese has clearly learned from the experience by bouncing back on the other side of London.

Under his guidance, Spurs, who were denied a place in the Champions League last May by dint of his successor Roberto Di Matteo winning the tournament, have managed to date to keep the Blues at arm's length and currently stand third, two points ahead of the Blues.

Villas-Boas has called on his side to forget the weekend's Liverpool loss, which ended a 12-match unbeaten run.

Although Wales star Gareth Bale is suspended for the return to Inter's San Siro, where he hit a hat-trick in the Champions League group phase two years ago, Villas-Boas says European glory is there for the taking.

"We have a wonderful opportunity to continue in the Europa League," he said.

"Our rewards can be with the Europa League trophy and Champions League qualification - that is our main ambition."

England's other survivors, Newcastle United, would certainly be more than happy with Europa League success, however maligned the tournament may be compared with the far more lucrative Champions League, where participation itself brings in megabucks as well as far greater kudos.

The Magpies have not won a trophy since their 1969 win in the Europa League's distant forerunner, the Fairs Cup.

Newcastle welcome Russia's Anzhi Makhachkala tonight after a goalless draw away in the first leg.

"We have got a real quality team coming and our fans are well-educated enough to know that it will be tough for us and we are going to need every one of them in here to make the atmosphere such that we squeeze through," said coach Alan Pardew.

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