File this one under "ties we wish were in the later rounds". The winner of the Europa League Round of 32 tie between Benfica and Bayer Leverkusen will have to be considered one of the favorites to win the competition.
Between the strength of their squads, what the Europa League trophy could potentially mean to the teams and the lack of competition around them for Champions League places, Bayer Leverkusen and Benfica both look like potential favorites for the Europa League crown. Unfortunately for them (and the general public), they'll have to go through each other just to get to the Round of 16.
While both sides have excellent records domestically, they have struggled a bit in recent weeks. Bayer has dropped points in three consecutive Bundesliga matches, taking them out of the running for the league title, while Benfica's disappointing draw with Nacional de Madeira has them level on points with rivals FC Porto.
Benfica have left Pablo Aimar and Carlos Martins at home, as they recover from injuries. Bayer Leverkusen do not have injuries to any of their key contributors.
Match date/time: Thursday, 1 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. local
Venue: BayArena, Leverkusen, Germany
TV: ESPN (UK), Sportsnet One (Canada), SIC (Portugal), Sky Sports 1 (Germany)
Online: FOX Soccer 2 Go (U.S.)