On Friday, we’ll find out which three teams we’ll face in the UEFA Europa League group stage in the draw in Istanbul.
This will be the time when our supporters can start planning their continental trips to see us in action, and the dreams begin of the journey ending in Budapest for the final in May.
Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s competition and who we might be up against over the next few months:
When does the draw take place?
The draw is set to start at 12pm BST on Friday. It will be broadcast on UEFA.com.
When are the matches?
Usually the six group stage matches are spread over 12 weeks, but due to the FIFA World Cup taking place in November, this has been condensed into eight.
Here are the six matchdays:
- Day 1: September 8
- Day 2: September 15
- Matchday 3: October 6
- Day 4: October 13
- Matchday 5: October 27
- Matchday 6: November 3
How do groups work?
The 32 clubs are seeded into four pots of eight based on club coefficient rankings.
Teams will be drawn into eight groups of four, each containing one team from each seeding pot.
Clubs from the same association cannot be drawn against each other.
To ensure that paired clubs from the same country (including those playing in the UEFA Europa Conference League) have different kick-off times where possible, the eight groups will be distinguished by colour: Groups A to D red and Groups E to H blue. When a paired club is drawn, for example, in one of the red groups, the other paired club – once drawn – will automatically be assigned to one of the blue groups. Pairings will be confirmed prior to the draw.
Who is already qualified?
16 teams have already reached the group stage:
- Roma (Italy)
- Manchester United (ENG)
- Arsenal (ENG)
- Lazio (ITA)
- Braga (POR)
- Feyenoord (NED)
- Rennes (FRA)
- Royal Society (ESP)
- Real Betis (ESP)
- Union Berlin (Germany)
- Freiburg (GER)
- Nantes (FRA)
- Monaco (FRA)
- Storm Graz (AUT)
- Union Saint-Gilloise (BEL)
- Central Jutland (DEN)
Who will be the other 16 teams?
The six losers of these Champions League matches, which take place on Wednesday evening, will meet in the Europa League:
Qarabag (AZE) 0-0 Viktoria Pilsen (CZE)
Bodo/Glimt (NOR) 1-0 Dinamo Zagreb (CRO)
Maccabi Haifa (ISR) 3-2 Red Star Belgrade (SRB)
Copenhagen (DEN) 2-1 Trabzonspor (TUR)
Dynamo Kyiv (UKR) 0-2 Benfica (POR)
Rangers (SCO) 2-2 PSV Eindhoven (NED)
The eight winners of these Europa League qualifiers, which are played on Thursday, will also join us in the group stage:
Dnipro (UKR) 1-2 AEK Larnaca (CYP)
Ghent (BEL) 0-2 Omonia (CYP)
Austria Vienna (AUT) 0-2 Fenerbahçe (TUR)
Zürich (SUI) 2-1 Hearts (SCO)
HJK (FIN) 1-0 Silkeborg (DEN)
Malmo (SWE) 3-1 Sivasspor (TUR)
Ferencvaros (HUN) 4-0 Shamrock Rovers (IRE)
Apollo (CYP) 1-1 Olympiacos (GRE)
Pyunik (ARM) 0-0 Sheriff (MDA)
Ludogorets (BUL) 1-0 Zalgiris (LTU)
Who could we face?
Due to our UEFA Club Coefficient Ranking (based on our European performances over the past five seasons), we have been seeded in Pot 1 alongside Roma, Manchester United, Lazio and Braga, so we will avoid these four plus three other seeds, until the knockout stages.
While we await confirmation from the other 16 teams after the qualifying rounds, the majority of pots are still in motion, although we know that Monaco (Pot 2) and Union Saint-Gilloise (Pot 4) have already been placed. , which means we could be drawn against one or the other, or both.
It’s also been confirmed that Real Sociedad, Real Betis, Union Berlin, Freiburg, Nantes and Sturm Graz won’t be included in Pot 1, so they’re all potential opponents.
How does the group work?
All group winners will advance directly to the round of 16, which will take place on March 9 and 16.
The second-placed teams will take part in a play-off round on 16 and 23 February, where they will play the eight teams that finished third in the UEFA Champions League groups to earn the right to reach the round of 16.
The third-placed teams will qualify for the UEFA Europa Conference League, where they will face the runners-up in that competition in the play-off round, also on 16 and 23 February.
Anyone finishing fourth will be eliminated from European competition.
What does the rest of the tournament look like?
As usual, the knockout stages will be home and away matches, although the away goals rule has been scrapped.
The dates for the Round of 16 have been confirmed as follows:
- Knockout play-offs: February 16 and 23
- Round of 16: March 9 and 16
- Quarter-finals: April 13 and 20
- Semi-finals: May 11 and 18
- Final: May 31
The final will take place in Budapest, in the 65,000-seat Puskas Arena.
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