PAOK have been drawn against Benfica in the last-32 stage of the Europa League. Following the announcement of the 2013/14 Champions League round of 16 fixtures, Monday afternoon brought the turn of the Europa League to take centre stage. The Greek team handed the tough challenge of last year’s finalist of the competition. Last year, benfica aimed to reach Europa League’s final where the Portuguese side lost 2-1 to Chelsea in a thrilling encounter, by conceding a late goal which proved to be the winning one.
The task of the Greek team is rather difficult. PAOK qualified second place in their Europa League group while Benfica failed to advance through the Champions League group round finishing third in Group C where Benfica encountered Olympiacos. Thus the Portuguese side will visit Greece for the second time this year, after the clash against Olympiacos. The first leg will be played at “Da Luz” stadium on Thursday, February the 20th while the second leg will get underway on Friday, February the 27th at “Toumba” stadium, in front of PAOK fans. These matches will be special for two of PAOK’s players Kostas Katsouranis and Miguel Vitor as they have both played for Benfica in the past. As a result they will both anticipate their return to “Da Luz” even if this time, they return as opponents. Another thing that makes this encounter special is the fact that Benfica will celebrate its 110th anniversary since the club’s founding. Benfica was founded on February 24th, 1904.
Jorje Jesus side currently stands in second place of their national championship, 2 points behind Sporting Lisbon. Benfica is trying to overcome the fact that last year they lost the Portuguese League, the Europa League Cup and the Portuguese domestic cup, by conceding late goals in all occasions. This year, Benfica is trying to heal their wounds and after a difficult start, they seem to have gotten back on track. As PAOK’s manager Huub Stevens commented “Benfica is one of the best teams in the Europa League with a great deal of experience in European Competitions. They are immensely talented and are definitely a “Champions League” team.” If PAOK proceeds to the next round, they will have to face the winner of the clash between Tottenham and Dnipro.
Here are all the fixtures of Europa League Round of 32:
|Home Team (1st leg)|
Away Team (1st leg)
Red Bull Salzburg