UEFA Europa League 2013, preview and fixtures: Less fun than it could have been

Claudio Villa

One great tie stands out above the rest in a Europa League Round of 16 that isn't nearly as good as it should be.

Football nerds everywhere are lamenting the disappearance of Ajax and Napoli from the UEFA Europa League. Viktoria Plzen and Steaua Bucharest were the teams that progressed past them, robbing everyone of two super fun ties. They're not inherently boring teams, but they're going to have to play somewhat defensively to progress to the quarterfinals.

The scheduling gods have blessed everyone with a Russian participant and an early home game on Thursday. It should be a good one, as Anzhi Makhachkala host Newcastle United. Chelsea play Steaua during the 1 p.m. ET slate, but the best game of the bunch there should be Viktoria Plzen hosting Fenerbahce.

During the late slate of games, all eyes will be on White Hart Lane for a rematch of a Champions League group stage matchup from two years ago, Tottenham Hotspur vs. Inter Milan. Fortunately for Interisti, Gareth Bale is no longer a true left winger and Maicon is no longer a member of the nerazzurri, so no one will have to suffer from horrific flashbacks.

Schedule (all times ET)

Anzhi Makhachkala vs. Newcastle United - 12 p.m.
Steaua Bucharest vs. Chelsea - 1 p.m.
VfB Stuttgart vs. Lazio - 1 p.m.
Viktoria Plzen vs. Fenerbahce - 1 p.m.
Benfica vs. Bordeaux - 3 p.m.
FC Basel vs. Zenit St. Petersburg - 3 p.m.
Levante vs. Rubin Kazan - 3 p.m.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Inter Milan - 3 p.m.

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