The Europa League playoff draw will see Barcelona play Italian side Napoli over two legs for a place in the competition’s Round of 16. Meanwhile, Dortmund will battle Scottish champions Glasgow Rangers, while RB Leipzig v Real Sociedad is also expected to entertain.
Starting this season, the eight teams placed third in the Champions League group stage don’t gain automatic qualification to the Europa League main track. Instead, they compete over two legs with the runners-up from the Europa League group stage. The eight resulting winners then join the Europa League group winners in the Round of 16.
All eyes are on FC Barcelona, who left the Champions League way too early for their ambitions. The Catalans paid the price for a dismal European campaign that saw them finish behind Bayern Munich and Benfica in their group.
Barcelona will play in Europe’s second-best club competition for the first time since the 2003-04 season. Napoli, winners of the competition known as the UEFA Cup in 1989, are also focused on the Serie A title, where they’re involved in a real fight for gold along with Inter, AC Milan, and Atalanta.
Europa League specialists Sevilla will be challenged by Dinamo Zagreb, while their city rivals at Betis will face Zenit St. Petersburg. Borussia Dortmund v Rangers, Porto v Lazio, and RB Leipzig v Real Sociedad are also matches worth attention.
Dortmund, who have the in-form Erling Haaland as their unstoppable weapon, is the favorite to lift the Europa League trophy this season at +550. Barcelona follows at +650, with Sevilla at +850. West Ham and Atalanta are tied at +900. 2020 Champions League semi-finalists RB Leipzig are next at +1000. At the other end, Dinamo Zagreb is the Europa League outsider at +10500. Rangers are just above at +10000.
What happens in the Conference League?
The newly-created UEFA competition will also host some interesting matches. The system is similar to the one implemented in the Champions and Europa Leagues, meaning clubs dropping to third-place in the Europa League group-stage will compete in a playoff with the runners-up from the Conference League groups.
Leicester City will play Danish side Randers, while Celtic Glasgow will have to get past AS Roma’s killers Bodo/Glimt for a place in the Round of 16. Tottenham is uncertain of its position after a COVID-19 outbreak saw them not being able to play Rennes on Thursday. If UEFA forfeits the game, as expected, then Vitesse Arnhem will play Rapid Vienna instead of Tottenham.
At +550, Leicester is the favorite to win the Conference League’s inaugural edition. AS Roma are behind at +700, the same as Marseille. A bet on PSV returns +900, with one on Rennes at +1000.