The Europa League draw took place on Monday, as 32 teams from across Europe learned who they would be playing in the competition’s first knockout round.
24 of the remaining teams battled their way through the Europa League group stage, while eight fell down to the second-tier competition after finishing third in their Champions League groups.
Solskjaer: Man U Faces Tough Games vs. Brugge
The Europa League remains a bit more democratic than its big brother, with 19 nations still represented as compared to the five that are competing in the Champions League. Major nations still expect to dominate, with some of Europe’s biggest clubs among the favorites.
That includes Manchester United, the +600 favorite to win following the Europa League draw, via FanDuel Sportsbook. United will take on Belgian side Club Brugge in the Round of 32, with Brugge hosting the first leg on Dec. 20.
United is a +135 favorite to walk away with the full three points in that first match. But the English side won’t have an easy time with Brugge, which qualified for the Champions League group stage before finishing third behind Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.
“They did well in the Champions League and they stayed in most of the games, with one or two bad defeats,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told reporters after the Europa League draw was revealed. “They will be tough games but you are always going to get tough games as you head into the knockout stages.”
Leverkusen, Porto Meet in First-Round Thriller
The toughest Round of 32 matchup pits two teams with plenty of European experience, both of whom have chances to win the Europa League if they can get by their first knockout opponent.
Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen (+2900 to win the competition) will take on Portuguese side Porto (+3400) in a matchup of two teams with plenty of prior European success. Leverkusen won the UEFA Cup – the predecessor to the Europa League – in 1988, and were the Champions League runners up in 2002. Meanwhile, Porto has two titles at each level of European club competition, with their most recent triumph being a Europa League trophy in 2011.
Complete Europa League Draw (Round of 32)
- Wolverhampton vs. Espanyol
- Sporting CP vs. Istanbul Basaksehir
- Getafe vs. Ajax
- Bayer Leverkusen vs. Porto
- Copenhagen vs. Celtic
- APOEL vs. Basel
- CFR Cluj vs. Sevilla
- Olympiacos vs. Arsenal
- AZ vs. LASK
- Club Brugge vs. Manchester United
- Ludogorets Razgrad vs. Inter Milan
- Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Red Bull Salzburg
- Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Benfica
- Wolfsburg vs. Malmo FF
- Roma vs. Gent
- Rangers vs. Braga
Leverkusen will host the first leg of the matchup on Feb. 20, with the hosts installed as -110 favorites.
The Europa League draw left many of the top sides happy, as they should be able to handle their first-round opposition. Sevilla (+650) was matched up with Romanian side CFR Cluj, while Italian stalwart Inter Milan (+800) will regroup after dropping from the Champions League to battle Bulgarian club Ludogorets Razgrad.
Also out of the Champions League is Ajax (+850), with the Dutch side now starting its Europa League quest against Spanish side Getafe. Arsenal (+850) is also among the tournament favorites, and has been matched up with Greek side Olympiacos.