Defending champ Sevilla draws Russian club Zenit in Europa League quarterfinals


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NYON, Switzerland — Defending champion Sevilla and Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg, the two strongest teams remaining in the Europa League, were matched up in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Sevilla, which advanced at the expense of Villarreal to stay on course for a fourth title in 10 years, will host the Russian club in the first leg on April 16, with the return leg on April 23.

"The defending champions are probably the hardest draw we could get," said Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas, whose side transferred to the Europa League after a Champions League exit in the group stage.

The last time Sevilla and Zenit reached the quarterfinals, they won the competition, respectively in 2014 and 2008.

Sevilla has lost only once at home against Russian sides, while Zenit has won only twice in 14 matches with Spanish opposition.

"Sevilla have quality, experience and recent successes in this tournament," Villas-Boas said. "All this makes our task even more difficult. However, we will play the second leg at home. We have an aim and a dream, and will give our best to continue the fight for the trophy."

After eliminating Inter Milan in the last 16, Bundesliga club Wolfsburg is up against former UEFA Cup winner Napoli, another Serie A club. The sides have never met in Europe before.

"I don't know if we are favorites. The challenge is getting tougher for us, because Napoli should be rated stronger than Inter," Wolfsburg sport director Klaus Allofs said. "Napoli has a great striker in Gonzalo Higuaín and an experienced coach in Rafael Benítez."

Dnipro of Ukraine will take on Belgian club Bruges, the only club not to have lost a game in the competition this season, while Fiorentina will hope to extend its unbeaten record in four meetings with Dynamo Kiev in the final matchup. The task, however, seems difficult against a side that has 22 goals in 10 games in the tournament.

Russian and Ukrainian clubs cannot meet before the May 27 final in Warsaw, a deliberate decision by UEFA because of the crisis over Crimea. Dnipro was initially drawn at home against Bruges, but had the fixture reversed to avoid a clash with Dynamo Kiev's home match.

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