Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Explainer: The Europa League draw - who can play who in last 32, Sevilla being favourites, and Arsenal and Chelsea's prospects

A look at who is through to the knockout stages and why Spanish domination of the tournament could go on

Sevilla's midfielder Ever Banega, left, and Andre Silva celebrate Thursday's win in the Europa League against Krasnodar. EPA
Sevilla's midfielder Ever Banega, left, and Andre Silva celebrate Thursday's win in the Europa League against Krasnodar. EPA

The Europa League group stages came to a conclusion on Thursday and we now know the teams who have qualified for the knockout stages of the tournament.

The 24 sides are joined in the draw, which will take place on Monday in Nyon, Switzerland, by the eight sides who finished third in their groups of the Uefa Champions League.

Of those eight, the four with the better records (Napoli, Valencia, Inter Milan and Benfica) will be seeded, while the second quartet (Viktoria Plzen, Club Brugge, Shakhtar Donetsk and Galatasary) are unseeded.

Here are things to watch out for.

Who is in which category

The 32 teams are split into the following lists

Seeded Bayer Leverkusen, Red Ball Salzburg, Zenit St Petersburg, Dinamo Zagreb, Arsenal, Real Betis, Villarreal, Eintracht Frankfurt, Genk, Sevilla, Dynamo Kiev, Chelsea, Napoli, Valencia, Inter Milan and Benfica.

Unseeded Zurich, Celtic, Slavia Prague, Fenerbahce, Sporting Lisbon, Olympiakos, Rapid Vienna, Lazio, Malmo, Krasnodar, Rennes, BATE Borisov, Viktoria Plzen, Club Brugge, Shakhtar Donetsk and Galatasary.

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Who can play who in the last 32

The only restrictions are that teams cannot at this stage play another club from the same domestic league, so neither seeded Serie A sides Napoli or Inter Milan can face Lazio for instance.

Teams can also not play the side that qualified from the same group as them, meaning BATE Borisov are the only unseeded team that Chelsea cannot be drawn with.

The unseeded side will have home advantage for the first legs, which are on February 14, with the second leg on February 21.

Spanish domination

The Europa League has proven something of a happy hunting ground for Spanish sides in the past with six of the past nine winners coming from Spain.

La Liga will fancy their chances of making that four from seven with four sides in Sevilla, Real Betis, Valencia and Villarreal in the competition still.

Sevilla have won the tournament three times, a hat-trick of successes between 2014-16, and they are favourites for a fourth crown, given they are title contenders in Spain, sitting just three points behind leaders Barcelona in second spot.

Chelsea and Arsenal's hopes

As things stand in the Premier League. with Chelsea fourth and Arsenal fifth, separated only by goal difference as they both have 34 points, the chances are only one of them will qualify with a top-four finish for the Champions League in 2019/20.

So winning the Europa League, and gaining qualification that way, is going to be an appealing prospect, especially as the top-four fight in the Premier League likely to go to the wire.

Chelsea, under Rafa Benitez, won the tournament in 2013, and in Eden Hazard have one of the elite players in world football right now, so they will always be a contender.

Arsenal have not won an European title since they won the Cup Winners Cup in 1994. They reached the semi-finals of the Europa League and are a galvanised outfit under Unai Emery, who took over from Arsene Wenger in the summer.

Arsenal have not lost in 22 matches in all competitions, a run that stretches back to August, and the 15 unseeded sides they can face (Sporting Lisbon qualified from Group E with them) will all hope they avoid being paired with them.

The Spanish sides, and Napoli in Serie A, look the biggest threats to the English pair, and they cannot be drawn with until the last 16 at the earliest.

Tournament details

From the last 16 stages the draw becomes open and there is no seedings.

The final takes place on May 29 in Baku in Azerbaijan at the Olympic Stadium.

Updated: December 14, 2018 02:36 PM

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