UEFA Europa League Draw Produces Fascinating Clashes

Europa League Draw
Photo Credit: AP

The Europa League draw for the 2022/23 knockout stages will be very interesting. The group stage was wrapped up in November, leaving teams plenty of time before the action resumes in early 2023.

Before the knockout stage proper begins, there is the play-off round to get through. In that, teams involved will fight for a place in the Europa League last 16.

How the Europa League Draw Works

After the group stage of the UEFA Europa League, only the group winners are guaranteed a place in the Round of 16. That leaves eight open spots in that section of the draw. The Europa League play-offs are for the eight teams that finished as group runners-up.

Each of those will be drawn against a team who dropped from the UEFA Champions League after finishing third in the group stage there. The situation has created a headline fixture in the Europa League play-off round of Manchester United vs Barcelona.

Europa League Draw Runners-Up

Champions League Third-Placed Teams

Manchester United vs Barcelona Europa League Draw

Manchester United could only finish as runners-up to La Liga side Real Sociedad in their Europa League group stage campaign. In their final match, they had to win away in San Sebastian by a two-goal margin.

While the Red Devils produced a Match Day 6 victory, it was only a 1-0 result, leaving them missing out on the top spot. The damage had been done back on Match Day One with a home loss to the Spaniards.

Barcelona meanwhile failed to reach the UEFA Champions League draw for the Round of 16 for the second season running. The Catalans could only manage a third-place finish in Group C, behind Bundesliga powerhouses Bayern Munich and Serie A’s Inter.

Barcelona produced only a W2 D1 L3 record in the group stage, which included two losses against Bayern. So once again, Barcelona find themselves in the play-off round of the Europa League. It is where they ended up last season.

Barcelona produced a strong play-off round victory against Napoli last season, before eliminating Galatasaray in the Round of 16. But as one of the tournament front-runners, Barca bowed out at the Europa League quarter-final stage against German side Eintracht Frankfurt in a huge upset. Eintracht Frankfurt went forward to eventually beat Rangers in a penalty shoot-out in the Europa League Final.

Manchester United vs Barcelona Draw – History

Europa League Draw
Manchester United’s Harry Maguire reacts during the Europa League Group E soccer match between Real Sociedad and Manchester United at the Reale Arena in San Sebastian, Spain, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

The last time that Manchester United and Barcelona went head-to-head was during the 2019 UEFA Champions League. Barcelona came out on top in that one, winning 4-0 on aggregate at a canter.

That was the fourth-straight victory for the La Liga giants against Manchester United. Three of those wins in the sequence were with a clean sheet. The overall head-to-head of Barcelona vs Manchester United is in Barcelona’s favour.

Barcelona are W6 D4 L3 in the head-to-head with Manchester United. This will be the first-ever Europa League/UEFA Cup meeting between the two European giants.

When the mouthwatering football fixture was announced at the Europa League draw on November 7th, 2022, Xavi’s Barcelona were odds-on favourites to qualify from the tie.

Europa League Group Stage Winners

There is such extra importance on winning a Europa League group. The current Europa League draw means that group winners go straight to the Round of 16. The group winners will go into the hat on February 24th when the Europa League draw for that stage is pulled.

Also in the hat will be the eight winners from the play-off round. The group winners will be seeded for that draw. So it means that any team that progresses through the play-off round will meet a group winner. However, teams from the same association can’t go up against one another. So Barcelona for example, couldn’t meet Real Sociedad.

Europa League Draw Play-Off Round

  • Barcelona v Manchester United
  • Juventus v Nantes
  • Sporting Lisbon v Midtjylland
  • Shakhtar Donetsk v Rennes
  • Ajax v Union Berlin
  • Bayer Leverkusen v Monaco
  • Sevilla v PSV Eindhoven
  • FC Salzburg v Roma

Europa League Draw Dates

The first leg of the Europa League play-off round is on February 16th, 2023. The return fixtures will be on February 23rd. The day after the second leg, the Europa League draw for the Round of 16 will happen.

So Arsenal will have to wait until then to find out who they line up against. Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, who are shaping up as Premier League title contenders this season, sauntered through their group stage.

But there are some heavyweight teams in the draw that the Gunners could be drawn against. Along with Barcelona, the likes of Ajax, Roma, Juventus and six-time Europa League winners Sevilla, would present difficult challenges for the English side.

UEFA Champions League Draw

The UEFA Champions League Draw was also made in early November. There is another blockbuster duel between English and Spanish opposition there. Liverpool have been drawn against Real Madrid in the Round of 16, the highlight tie of the round.

In last year’s UEFA Champions League Final held in Paris, Real Madrid beat the Reds 1-0. Youngster Vinicius Junior got the only goal of the game. That led Real Madrid to their record-extending fourteenth European Cup/Champions League title.

This current Champions League draw represents a huge early test for Liverpool. The Reds ended up in that position after a failure to win their group stage. The Premier League side finished as runners-up in Group A behind Napoli.

A damaging 4-1 loss against Napoli at the start of the campaign, hurt the Reds badly. Liverpool have made their way through to three of the last five Champions League Finals. Two of those ended in defeat at the hands of Real Madrid.

Real Madrid and Liverpool have become very familiar with each other during recent seasons. When they clash in the Round of 16 in the spring, it will be the fourth time in the last six seasons that the two will have met.

UEFA Champions League Draw – English Teams

Manchester City are the UEFA Champions League favourite in the betting market. Pep Guardiola’s Citizens are on the hunt for the first-ever title in the competition. They will face German opposition in the shape of RB Leipzig in the Round of 16.

Chelsea will also go up against Bundesliga opposition as they chase a spot in the Quarter Finals Champions League draw. The Blues face a tough one against Borussia Dortmund, with the first leg on the road. The tie will put a bigger spotlight on young England star Jude Bellingham. The Dortmund midfielder has been the centre of transfer speculation to the Premier League, with the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea linked.

Tottenham face a tricky challenge in the Round of 16 Champions League draw. The Lilywhites, who came through a testing group stage campaign, line up against Serie A champions AC Milan. Spurs boss Antonio Conte knows AC Milan well from his managerial days in Italy with their rivals Inter.

But along with the Liverpool vs Real Madrid draw, the other headline tie is PSG vs Bayern Munich. It pits the Ligue 1 champions against the Bundesliga champions in a mouthwatering clash. PSG surprisingly failed to top their group, as Benfica pipped them courtesy of having scored more away goals in the campaign.

UEFA Champions League Draw Round of 16

  • RB Leipzig v Manchester City
  • Club Bruges v Benfica
  • Liverpool v Real Madrid
  • AC Milan v Tottenham
  • Frankfurt v Napoli
  • Borussia Dortmund v Chelsea
  • Inter Milan v Porto
  • Paris St-Germain v Bayern Munich

UEFA Conference League

Europa Conference League Draw
West Ham’s DIvin Mubama celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Europa Conference League, group B, soccer match between FCSB and West Ham United at the National Arena stadium in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

UK interest in the UEFA Conference League rests on the shoulders of West Ham. The Irons had no trouble topping their group, winning all six matches in a strong show. Hearts and Shamrock Rovers both failed to make it through their respective Conference League group stage campaigns.

As West Ham topped their group, they skip past the play-off round and will wait until the Round of 16 Conference League draw. That too will be held on February 24th, the same time as the Champions League and Europa League draws are made.

In the play-off round of the Conference League, the eight group runners-up will go into a tie against a team that finished third in the Europa League group stage.

Conference League Group Winners

  • West Ham
  • Nice
  • AZ Alkmaar
  • Slovan Bratislava
  • Villarreal
  • Djurgardens IF
  • Istanbul Basaksehir
  • Sivasspor

Conference League Draw Play-Off Round

  • Qarabağ vs Gent
  • Trabzonspor vs Basel
  • Lazio vs CFR Cluj
  • Bodo/Glimt vs Lech Ponzan
  • Braga vs Fiorentina
  • AEK Larnaca vs Dnipro
  • Sheriff Trisapol vs Partizan
  • Ludogorets Razgrad vs Anderlecht