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 draw was made on Monday for the new knockout round play-offs as the teams who finished third in their Champions League groups enter the competition.
The format has changed this year as a result of the introduction of the new Europa Conference League. There is no longer a round of 32, instead the sides who won their groups go straight through to the last 16 – and the teams who finished second play against the fallen Champions League clubs to decide who joins them.
Yesterday we offered our thoughts on the Champions League last 16 draw and now we’ve done the same with the Europa League.
Below you can read our reaction to the draw and see our verdicts on who we think will progress from each tie. Together, all eight selections make up a 47/1 accumulator. You can back our eight-fold bet below, or alternatively pick out a few or our selections or perhaps mix and match with our Champions League bets too.
Europa League knockout round play-offs draw
- Sevilla vs Dinamo Zagreb
- Atalanta vs Olympiacos
- RB Leipzig vs Real Sociedad
- Barcelona vs Napoli
- Zenit St Petersburg vs Real Betis
- Borussia Dortmund vs Rangers
- Sheriff Tiraspol vs Braga
- Porto vs Lazio
Europa League knockout round play-offs draw reaction & tips
Sevilla vs Dinamo Zagreb
Sevilla dropped down from the Champions League and will be disappointed at finishing behind Lille and RB Salzburg but we should still expect them to treat the Europa League seriously. The La Liga outfit have won this competition a record six times and won the trophy in 2020 under current coach Julen Lopetegui in their last appearance. They should have the quality and experience to come through their tie against Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb.
Verdict: Sevilla to qualify
Atalanta vs Olympiacos
Olympiacos managed to come through a tough group but fell short against quality opposition, losing both of their games against Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt. Atalanta are probably a further step-up in class and should have too much for their Greek opponents in this double-header, with La Dea rated as the fourth favourites to win this competition at 9/1.
Verdict: Atlanta to qualify
RB Leipzig vs Real Sociedad
The tie between Germany’s RB Leipzig and Spanish outfit Real Sociedad could be a close battle. Leipzig have endured a tough start to the season by their standards, while Sociedad have hit a rough patch after a strong opening to the campaign. A lot can change between now and February when the first legs are due to take place but on balance I’m leaning towards Sociedad here. The La Liga club have a strong home record – only Real Madrid have beaten them on their own patch so far this season – and the fact they will have the advantage of playing at their Anoeta base in the second leg may be vital.
Verdict: Real Sociedad to qualify
Barcelona vs Napoli
It seems almost unthinkable to see Barcelona in the Europa League but they are a club in the midst of a crisis and they now face an incredibly tough assignment against Napoli. The Italian outfit have definitely prioritised the Scudetto battle in Italy, as they opted to rotate for their crucial final group stage game against Leicester despite needing a result to guarantee progress, but the chance of knocking out Barcelona may prove too hard to resist irrespective of how their domestic campaign is going at that point. The Catalan giants fell short against Benfica in the Champions League and Napoli are probably a better team than the Portuguese giants so it could pay to be bold and back the underdogs in this match-up.
Verdict: Napoli to qualify
Zenit St Petersburg vs Real Betis
Zenit picked up four of their five Champions League group stage points in Russia and their solitary point on the road came against Sweden’s Malmo. Real Betis look the real deal right now and are surging up the La Liga table, and with home advantage in the second leg they look well placed to see off the challenge of Zenit and secure a last 16 spot.
Verdict: Real Betis to qualify
Borussia Dortmund vs Rangers
Rangers have put in some big performances in Europe to reach this stage of the Europa League but have now been handed an incredibly tough tie against Borussia Dortmund, who dropped out of the Champions League by virtue of their head-to-head results against Sporting Lisbon. BVB are the tournament favourites and should be able to win this tie fairly comfortably.
Verdict: Borussia Dortmund to qualify
Sheriff Tiraspol vs Braga
Braga are the favourites to qualify but Sheriff Tiraspol shouldn’t be underestimated. The Moldovan outfit managed an historic win at Real Madrid in the Champions League group stages and beat Shakhtar Donetsk to third spot in their group, but Braga may just have the edge in this match-up. If Sheriff can get a big result in the first leg at home they will have a chance but ultimately Braga should have the quality to avoid an upset.
Verdict: Braga to qualify
Porto vs Lazio
Lazio have been fairly disappointing in Europe this season and their only Europa League group stage wins came against Lokomotiv Moscow. The Italians did only lose once, but Porto were arguably unlucky to be eliminated from the Champions League despite being drawn in what was on paper the most competitive/toughest group so expect them to come through this tie.
Verdict: Porto to qualify
Europa League knockout round play-offs accumulator tip
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