Sports Journalist at FST, Gareth qualified as a journalist after graduating from university and spent over a decade as a freelance broadcast journalist, commentator and tipster before joining FST. Now living in Manchester, he is a long suffering Bolton Wanderers fan who also enjoys boxing, the NBA, tennis and rugby league.
The Europa League has a new format this year to accommodate the new Europa Conference League and the round of 32 has been scrapped.
Instead, we have a preliminary knockout round for the eight teams who enter the competition from the Champions League and the eight teams who finished second in the group stages, with the winners of those ties going into the last 16 where the eight Europa League group winners await.
We’ve had a look at the preliminary knockout round ties and picked out our winners, with this eightfold bet paying out at 22/1. Read on to see who we’re backing to make it through to the next round.
Europa League Preliminary Knockout Round Draw
- Barcelona vs Napoli
- Borussia Dortmund vs Rangers
- Sheriff Tiraspol vs Braga
- Zenit St Petersburg vs Real Betis
- Atalanta vs Olympiakos
- Porto vs Lazio
- RB Leipzig vs Real Sociedad
- Sevilla vs Dinamo Zagreb
Latest Europa League Winners Odds
- Borussia Dortmund 11/2
- Sevilla 7/1
- Barcelona 8/1
- Atalanta 8/1
- West Ham 12/1
- Lyon 14/1
- RB Leipzig 14/1
Europa League Preliminary Knockout Round Draw Reaction & Tips
Barcelona vs Napoli
Barcelona find themselves in the Europa League after failing to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since they missed out on qualifying for Europe’s top competition altogether in the 2003/04 campaign. The Catalan giants reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup that season, but they face a huge task in the shape of Napoli this year. It is probably fair to say Napoli treated the Europa League as a distraction in the group stages as they focused on the Scudetto and challenging for domestic dominance will be their priority, but they will sense they have a chance to make a statement against this out-of-sorts incarnation of Barcelona and I’m backing the slight underdogs to pull off a minor upset.
Verdict: Napoli to qualify
Borussia Dortmund vs Rangers
Rangers came through a tricky group but have been handed an incredibly tough draw against tournament favourites Borussia Dortmund. BVB are stronger in all areas and anything other than a convincing win for the German giants would register as a huge upset, so I’m backing the heavy favourites in this match-up.
Verdict: Dortmund to qualify
Sheriff Tiraspol vs Braga
Sheriff Tiraspol claimed a sensational win at Real Madrid during the Champions League group stages but since then have three defeats and one draw from their European adventures. The Moldovan club are at a disadvantage as they haven’t played a competitive game since early December, while Braga head into this tie in good form with three wins in their last four games.
Verdict: Braga to qualify
Zenit St Petersburg vs Real Betis
Like Sheriff, Zenit haven’t played any competitive football for over two months now and they come up against a Real Betis side in fine fettle. Spanish sides have dominated this competition in recent years and I’m backing Betis in this match-up. Zenit managed just five points from six games in the Champions League group stages and lost two of their three away fixtures, managing just one point at Malmo. If Zenit are to progress they almost certainly need to win the home leg and as this is their first game since early December that looks a big ask, so Betis are the bet in this tie.
Verdict: Real Betis to qualify
Atalanta vs Olympiakos
Italian outfit Atalanta were unlucky to drop out of the Champions League and go into their double-header with Olympiakos in poor form, but they remain heavily fancied to go deep in this competition and it is hard to see them stumbling against the Greeks. Olympiakos lost three of their six games in the group stages and La Dea are a further step up in class so I’m backing the Serie A side to progress.
Verdict: Atalanta to qualify
Porto vs Lazio
Porto’s tie against Lazio is one of the tougher clashes to call but I’m siding with slight favourites Porto due to their better form and their incredible home record. The Portuguese club have only been beaten twice at home this season, by Liverpool and Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, and have won 14 of their other 15 games at the Estadio do Dragao across all competitions. Porto took four points from Serie A leaders AC Milan in the Champions League group stages and I’m expecting them to get the better of Lazio over two legs.
Verdict: Porto to qualify
RB Leipzig vs Real Sociedad
RB Leipzig’s tie with Real Sociedad is another hard one to call but the German outfit are the form team of the two and may benefit from home advantage in the first leg. We’ve picked out Leipzig as our ‘dark horses’ for the Europa League outright and they can use their momentum to overcome La Real.
Verdict: RB Leipzig to qualify
Sevilla vs Dinamo Zagreb
Record Europa League winners Sevilla have a La Liga title fight to focus on but they should still have far too much quality for Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb over two legs. Sevilla have won this competition four times in the last eight years and they look well placed to go all the way once again, so back them to see off Dinamo as they return to the competition for the first time since winning the last of their six titles in 2020.
Verdict: Sevilla to qualify
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