- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Flying high in the Italian league, Juventus and Napoli aren’t in such great positions in the Europa League going into the second legs of their last-16 matches on Thursday.

Juventus, which is top of Serie A and arguably the biggest name left in Europe’s second-tier competition, was held 1-1 at home by Fiorentina in the first leg while Napoli has to overturn a 1-0 deficit to Porto.

Benfica, Lyon, Valencia and Real Betis claimed convincing first-leg wins and will be confident of advancing to the quarterfinals.

Here are five things to know about Thursday’s games in the Europa League:


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MARIO AND MERKEL

Fiorentina striker Mario Gomez has been at the center of attention after scoring a late equalizer in a 1-1 first-leg draw with domestic rival Juventus.

The Germany forward also notched his first Serie A goal after missing five months with a left knee injury in a 3-1 win over Chievo Verona on Sunday.

Then, on Monday, new Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, a Florentine and avowed Fiorentina fan, presented an autographed Gomez shirt to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting in Berlin.

Gomez will again anchor Fiorentina’s attack in Thursday’s return leg.

Juventus, meanwhile, will welcome the return of Carlos Tevez, Serie A’s top scorer, after a minor injury. In Juve’s defense, center back Andrea Barzagli has been ruled out for three weeks with an injured left calf.

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JESUS VS. SHERWOOD

Ding, ding - Round 2.

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus and Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood were engaged in a touchline spat during their sides’ first leg at White Hart Lane - and it clearly left a nasty taste in Sherwood’s mouth.

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