On Friday, we’ll discover which three teams we’ll face in the UEFA Europa League group stage, when the draw is made in Istanbul.
It’ll be the moment 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 is everything you need to know about this year’s competition, and who we could face over the next few months:
When is the draw taking place?
The draw is scheduled to start at 12pm BST on Friday. It will be streamed on UEFA.com.
When are the fixtures taking place?
Usually the six group stage matches are spread over 12 weeks, however due to the FIFA World Cup taking place in November, this has been condensed into eight.
These are the six matchdays:
- Matchday 1: September 8
- Matchday 2: September 15
- Matchday 3: October 6
- Matchday 4: October 13
- Matchday 5: October 27
- Matchday 6: November 3
How do the groups work?
The 32 clubs are seeded into four pots of eight in accordance with the club coefficient ranking.
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 be automatically assigned to one of the blue groups. Pairings will be confirmed before the draw.
Who has already qualified?
16 teams have already made it to the group stage:
- Roma (ITA)
- Manchester United (ENG)
- Arsenal (ENG)
- Lazio (ITA)
- Braga (POR)
- Feyenoord (NED)
- Rennes (FRA)
- Real Sociedad (ESP)
- Real Betis (ESP)
- Union Berlin (GER)
- Freiburg (GER)
- Nantes (FRA)
- Monaco (FRA)
- Sturm Graz (AUT)
- Union Saint-Gilloise (BEL)
- Midtjylland (DEN)
Who will the other 16 teams be?
The six losers of these Champions League ties, which take place on Wednesday night, will drop into the Europa League:
Qarabag (AZE) 0-0 Viktoria Plzen (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 qualifying ties, which take place on Thursday, will also join us in the group stage:
Dnipro (UKR) 1-2 AEK Larnaca (CYP)
Gent (BEL) 0-2 Omonoia (CYP)
Austria Wien (AUT) 0-2 Fenerbahce (TUR)
Zurich (SUI) 2-1 Hearts (SCO)
HJK (FIN) 1-0 Silkeborg (DEN)
Malmo (SWE) 3-1 Sivasspor (TUR)
Ferencvaros (HUN) 4-0 Shamrock Rovers (IRE)
Apollon (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 during the last five seasons), we have been seeded in Pot 1 alongside Roma, Manchester United, Lazio and Braga, so will avoid those four plus another three top seeds, until the knockout stages.
As we await confirmation of the other 16 teams following the qualifying rounds, the majority of the pots are still in flux, although we do know that Monaco (Pot 2) and Union Saint-Gilloise (Pot 4) have already been placed, meaning we could be drawn against either, or both.
It has also been confirmed that Real Sociedad, Real Betis, Union Berlin, Freiburg, Nantes and Sturm Graz won’t be included in Pot 1, so are all also potential opponents.
How does the group work?
All the group winners will progress straight into the round of 16, which is due to take place on 9 and 16 March.
The second-placed teams go into a play-off round on 16 and 23 February, where they will face off against 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 drop into the UEFA Europa Conference League, where they will face the group runners-up from that competition in the play-off round, also on the 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 legs, although the away goal rule has been scrapped.
The dates for the knockout rounds have been confirmed as:
- Knockout round play-offs: February 16 & 23
- Round of 16: March 9 & 16
- Quarter-finals: April 13 & 20
- Semi-finals: May 11 & 18
- Final: May 31
The final will take place in Budapest, at the 65,000 seater Puskas Arena.
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