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Goal.com salutes the eight teams remaining in Europe's second-tier club tournament as they enter the home stretch of the competition

Only four more fixtures separate two of Europe's trophy hopefuls from a date in Bucharest for the final of the 2011-12 Europa League.

While the competition may be overshadowed by its bigger brother, the Champions League, some of the biggest clubs in the continent are still in the running to etch their names into the honour list and join previous illustrious winners such as Inter, Juventus, Liverpool and Real Madrid.

Below, we look at the eight teams left in the competition ahead of the quarter-final and semi-final draws, which will take place on Friday, March 16 at 13.00CET in Nyon.

ATHLETIC BILBAO


Athletic had little fuss advancing to the knockout stages from Group F. The Basque outfit coasted to four wins from their first five games, including an impressive 2-0 triumph over Paris Saint Germain, to effectively seal their place in the next phase as group winners with one game to spare.

In the round of 32, Marcelo Bielsa's men overturned a 2-1 first leg deficit against Lokomotiv Moscow, but only just as they squeezed out a 1-0 win at home to advance on the away goal. In the following round, after an impressive 3-2 victory at Manchester United, Athletic controlled proceedings at home, picking up a 2-1 victory against Sir Alex Ferguson's side to ensure progression.

Odds to win the Europa League: 100/30 with Sportingbet


ATLETICO MADRID


Despite a tough Group I that included Celtic, Rennes, and Udinese, Atletico claimed four wins out of six, only losing 2-0 in Italy and drawing 1-1 in France, to finish top of their section. They won all of their last three group outings to qualify for the next round with four-point cushion over the runners-up.

They carried that good form into the knockout phase, dispatching Lazio 3-1 at the Stadio Olimpico in the first leg of the round of 32 before claiming a 1-0 triumph at home to complete a convincing aggregate victory. An impressive 3-1 away victory against Besiktas was followed by a 3-0 success at home to see the Spanish capital club cruise into the competition's quarter-finals.

Odds to win the Europa League: 7/2 with Sportingbet

AZ


AZ only scraped into the knockout phase thanks to a superior goal difference to Austria Wien after both teams finished on eight points and an identical head-to-head record. The Dutch side drew five of their six Group G matches but the one game that they did win, a 4-1 triumph over Malmo, was crucial in giving them second place.

The draw specialists then negotiated Anderlecht in the last 32 with 1-0 victories in each leg. A 10-man AZ side suffered a 2-1 defeat in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie against Udinese, but still went through after a 2-0 victory in the first leg.

Odds to win the Europa League: 12/1 with Sportingbet

HANNOVER


Hannover comfortably finished as runners-up of Group B, six points clear of third-placed Copenhagen. The Bundesliga outfit only lost to eventual section winners Standard Liege, a side that they would have to face again in the last 16.

They set up a round of 32 meeting with another Belgian side, Club Brugge, but overcame their opponents 3-2 on aggregate. The last 16 saw a 2-2 draw in the first leg against Standard Liege, but Hannover turned in an impressive display at the AWD-Arena to secure a 4-0 victory that sends them to the final eight of the competition.

Odds to win the Europa League: 12/1 with Sportingbet

METALIST


Metalist were the second highest goalscorers in the group phase with 15 goals. They cruised through their section undefeated and despite two draws, they still managed to finish a healthy six points ahead of runners-up AZ.

The Ukrainians carried their rich vein of form in front of goal into the round of 32, beating Salzburg 4-0 in the first leg and wrapped up the tie nicely with a 4-1 home win in the return clash. And Despite suffering a 1-0 defeat at home against Olympiakos, Metalist picked up a 2-1 victory on the road to move forward on the away goals rule in the next round.

Odds to win the Europa League: 18/1 with Sportingbet

SCHALKE


Schalke eased their way through Group J by collecting four wins and two draws, dropping points at Steaua Bucharest and AEK Larnaca even though they thumped the latter 5-0 in the reverse fixture.

Huub Stevens' men had to play an extra 30 minutes to negotiate the round of 32. After a 1-1 draw at Viktoria Plzen in the first leg, a carbon-copy scoreline in the return leg forced the game into extra time, where the Germans prevailed 3-1. In their Round of 16 tie against Twente, Schalke suffered a 1-0 defeat in the first leg, but an exciting 4-1 victory in front of their own fans sent them through.

Odds to win the Europa League: 5/1 with Sportingbet

SPORTING LISBON


Sporting Lisbon were in cruise control in Group D by winning their first three games. Despite a slight hiccup when they went down 1-0 at Vaslui, a 2-0 victory over FC Zurich in their subsequent fixture confirmed their place in the knockouts as group winners. Even with a 2-0 defeat at Lazio on matchday six, they still had a three-point buffer to boast.

The Lisbon giants secured a late 2-2 draw at Legia Warsaw in the first leg of the last 32, but came out 1-0 victors in the home game. Against Manchester City, Sporting posted a 1-0 victory at the Estadio de Alvalade, before a 3-2 defeat in England saw them progress on the away goals rule, eliminating the Premier League powerhouse.

Odds to win the Europa League: 11/1 with Sportingbet

VALENCIA


Valencia missed out on a spot in the Champions League knockout rounds on the final matchday, losing 3-0 at Chelsea to leave them with a third-place finish in Group E, two points behind runners-up Bayer Leverkusen.

Unai Emery's men made a quick return to England to kick off their Europa League programme, beating Stoke City 1-0 in the first leg of the round of 32 before recording the same scoreline in the return clash at Mestalla. They then took on Dutch opponents and after a 4-2 victory against PSV in the first leg, a 1-1 draw in the Netherlands confirmed that Valencia would enter the last-eight stage.

Odds to win the Europa League: 16/5 with Sportingbet

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