MADRID (AP) — The Iberian peninsula's grip on the Europa League will loosen if Juventus and Basel can make good on first-leg victories and reach the semifinals of Europe's second-tier tournament.
Juventus' 1-0 first-leg win at Lyon provides the cushion of an away goal for the Serie A champions at their home stadium, where the final will be held on May 14.
Basel trounced Valencia 3-0 to travel to Spain with a big lead, while Benfica and Porto both secured 1-0 victories for the Portuguese clubs to be in control of their series.
Portuguese leader Benfica welcomes AZ Alkmaar while Porto travels to Sevilla with the confidence of knowing three of the past four winners of the competition have come from Spain or Portugal.
Here are five things to know about Thursday's quarterfinal return legs:
HOME SWEET HOME: Juventus has been unbeatable at home this season and will expect to continue that record following its 1-0 first-leg win at Lyon.
A 2-0 victory over Livorno on Monday marked Juve's 16th win in 16 Serie A home matches this season, matching the record set by city rival Torino in 1947-48.
Juventus is undefeated at home in its other three competitions this season as it hones in on a third consecutive Italian title with an eight-point lead over Roma. It just has to be sure it reaches the Europa League final, next.
"We want to get into a European semifinal," Juventus coach Antonio Conte said. "We need the support of our fans, from now until the end of the season."
SWISS CAN'T MISS: Basel is playing for national pride — and its own future Champions League prospects — at Valencia on Thursday.
Leading 3-0 from the first leg at home, Basel is favored to advance to a second straight Europa League semifinal and earn Switzerland extra ranking points. That would lift the Alpine nation into 12th place in UEFA's rankings for club competitions — guaranteeing whoever is Swiss league winner next year a place in the 2015-16 Champions League group stage.
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