Your Europa League Round of 32, Leg 1 Preview

The Europa League knockout stage begins again today and this isn’t your typical Europa League. What was once a tournament that didn’t really hold a lot of importance is now a priority due to the winner getting an automatic Champions League position next season. This is huge for the teams on the fringe of the Champions League battle in their respective league. This is going to be a great tournament.

The Europa League does things a little bit differently than in the Champions League. Mainly, the Europa League starts their knockout stage with 32 teams instead of 16. This means that teams will obviously play more games. Also, instead of splitting the teams to play on different days like the Champions League, everyone in the Europa League plays the same day. So since there are 16 games happening, we’re going to preview the televised games and list the rest at the end.

Young Boys vs. Everton

Young Boys and Everton kick off the 1:00 games today in Switzerland on FOX Sports 2. Both teams found their way into the knockout stage by the Europa League Group Stage.

The main talk concerning this game is that the game will be played on artificial turf. While this is pretty common in the United States and the Women’s World Cup, it’s a foreign concept among most European teams and especially for English teams. Everton’s manager Roberto Martinez has been training the team on artificial turf for the past week to prepare for the subtle nuances differentiating turf and grass.


Roma vs. Feyenoord

Roma and Feyenoord will be on FOX Soccer Plus and is the second of the two 1:00 games on TV. The Dutch team comes to Italy after winning their group, which included defending champions Sevilla, in the Europa League. While that may make someone the favorite, they run into a team who was in arguably the toughest group Champions League and is solidly 2nd in Serie A.

In this matchup, both teams have been suffering some bad slumps and both desperately need a win. Feyenoord has been in a slump recently and haven’t won in three of their last five games. Roma has been winless in seven of their last ten. The team who wins and advances will hopefully use this is a catalyst for the rest of their season.


Liverpool vs. Besiktas

The EPL powerhouse comes to the Europa League to look to start their journey back into the Champions League. They face a very dangerous Besiktas team who won their group over Tottenham and are incredibly dangerous at home. They play Besiktas at 3:05 on FOX Sports 2.

A couple days before the game, it was revealed that Liverpool’s Lazar Markovic would be suspended four European games due to his actions in last year’s Champions League game against Basel. Brendan Rodgers has some confidence in his team. In a press conference this week, Rodgers said, “I felt if we were maybe the team we had (last year) or were further down the road with this team then we’d have had a chance with the Champions League, that’s the reality.” I don’t know if I would go that far in saying Liverpool could win the Champions League but truly believing that you can win is half the battle. He’s definitely going to use that to try and get back into the Champions League.


Tottenham vs. Fiorentina

Like Liverpool, Tottenham is using the Europa League as another opportunity to get into the Champions League because there’s no guarantee either team will make the top four. They face a Fiorentina team who won their group but it wasn’t the strongest group. The game will be shown at 3:05 on FOX Soccer Plus.

This looks like a rather even matchup and one that may be the most entertaining of the day. Obviously, everyone will be watching Harry Kane as he remains on his tear of scoring goals for Spurs. Both teams are rather healthy for mid February so expect to see the best from both teams.


Rest of the Games

1:00 Games

PSV vs. Zenit
Dnipro vs. Olympiakos
AaB vs. Club Brugge
Trabzonspor vs. Napoli
Torino vs. Athletic Bilbao
Wolfsburg vs. Sporting Lisbon

3:05 Games

Celtic vs. Inter
Villareal vs. Salzburg
Sevilla vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Ajax vs. Legia Warszawa
Anderlecht vs. Dinamo Moscow
Guingamp vs. Dynamo Kyiv

(FOX Sports)

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @phillipbupp