UEFA Europa League 2012: Spanish Sides Dominate Quarterfinals

Klaas Jan Huntelaar of Schalke celebrates after scoring his teams second goal during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 second leg match between FC Schalke 04 and FC Twente at Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Schalke face Athletic Bilbao on March 29, 2012. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Valencia, Atlético Madrid and Athletic Bilbao are the favorites in Europa League, but all eight teams have the talent to win.

When the Manchester sides were knocked out of Champions League play, they became presumptive favorites in the UEFA Europa League. Both fell in the Round of 16, though, and it now appears that La Liga's teams control the competition. Atlético Madrid, Valencia and Athletic Bilbao occupy three of the league's eight quarterfinal places, and they are arguably the three best teams remaining in the competition.

All will be tested, however, and every quarterfinal tie should be competitive. Every single one of the eight teams remaining has needed to defeat quality sides to get here and all of them have enough talent to win the competition. The one tie that does not feature a Spanish club, Sporting Lisbon vs. Metalist Kharkiv, features two teams that pulled off impressive upsets in the last round. Sporting took down Manchester City, while Metalist won away against Olympiacos.

All four games kick off at the exact same time, because UEFA doesn't like you. Why they can't stagger these games, no one will ever know.

Schedule (All games 3 p.m. ET)

Atlético Madrid vs. Hannover 96
AZ Alkmaar vs. Valencia
Schalke 04 vs. Athletic Bilbao
Sporting Lisbon vs. Metalist Kharkiv

We'll have individual previews and live coverage of every match in our UEFA Europa League Quarterfinals StoryStream.

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