It is no secret that UEFA find it hard to not fiddle with tournament names and formats and that is why there is a round in the Europa League that may catch some off guard.

It was part of the tournament last season too but many people have lost track of how the new play-off system works, so we at 90min are going to explain it to you.

This phase of the tournament was first introduced in the 2021/22 season and it is something that is here to stay. The play-off round is competed by 16 teams. The eight teams who finished second in their Europa League groups come up against the eight teams that finished third in their Champions League groups.

A draw is made by UEFA just like for every other round, with the same criteria of not facing a team from the same country in place.

So for the 2022/23 season, there is the potential for some very intriguing and high-profile clashes due to the under-performance of some massive clubs.

Pedri, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Granit Xhaka

Barcelona were unable to progress in the Champions League / David Ramos/GettyImages

The teams who finished second in their Europa League groups are:

The teams who finished third in the Champions League groups and will be facing the above sides are:

So obviously, the highest profile potential tie there is if Manchester United were to be drawn against Barcelona or Juventus. The Premier League side would likely rather face the likes of RB Salzburg or Shakhtar Donetsk to have a better chance of avoiding an early exit.

The first legs of these matches are scheduled for February 16 and the second legs are a week later on February 23.

The assumed reasoning behind this change in format is to create more high-profile ties earlier in the competition. The Europa League has been criticised in the past for its overly inflated round of 32 where many games are just lost among the rest.

It also provides a much greater incentive in the group stage for teams to do all they can to win the group, rather than settle for second and be content with the chance of not getting a third-placed Champions League team.

The eight Europa League group winners have gone straight into the round of 16, to be joined by the eight winners of the play-offs.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United needed one more goal to top the group / Quality Sport Images/GettyImages

The Europa League knockout round play-off ties will be drawn on Monday, November 7 at UEFA headquarters in Switzerland. It starts at 13:00 CET which is 12:00 GMT, straight after the Champions League round of 16 draw.

The draw will be available to watch on BT Sport but for those without a subscription, it will also be on the BT Sport YouTube channel and the UEFA Europa League YouTube channel for free.

Once the playoffs have been drawn and completed, the eight winning teams will join the eight Europa League group winners in the round of 16. A draw will be made for that round on February 24.

The eight group winners will be seeded and the playoff winners will be unseeded.

Nikola Katic, Eddie Nketiah

Arsenal topped their group by beating FC Zurich / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

Teams from the same federation will still be unable to face each other, so for argument’s sake, if Manchester United win their playoff tie, they will face one of the following teams except for Arsenal:

Group winners will play the second leg at home. The winners of these ties go into the quarter-finals, followed by the semi-finals and the final.

The timeline for these matches and draws is as follows:

The 2022/23 Europa League final is set to be played at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary. The stadium holds over 65,000 spectators and is one of the great tourist destinations in Europe, ensuring a great visit for anyone who makes the trip.

The winner will be into the 2023/24 Champions League group stage provided they have not already qualified domestically.


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