After seeing some big teams drop out of the Europa League, such as Southampton, Feyenoord, and Inter Milan, the Round of 32 will see the Champions League third-placed teams join the competition as the latter stages begin.
Tottenham Hotspur, Roma and Borussia Monchengladbach are just a few of the sides to join the second-tier European competition, but no doubt that the lure of a European trophy and coveted Champions League spot for the winner means that teams will be battling it to make it to the final in Stockholm.
The first leg of the Round of 32 commences on the 16th of February, with the second legs taking place the following week so that the schedule eventually matches the Champions League, who are already at the last-16 stage of the competition.
There are several games that are almost too hard to call, such as Fiorentina’s clash with Borussia Mochengladbach, AZ Alkmaar’s contest with Lyon, or Villarreal’s match versus Roma.
But no doubt we will be seeing some big names ease their way into the Round of 16 draw, such as Manchester United, Tottenham, Ajax and Athletic Club who all should be comfortable.
With Sevilla winning the competition consecutively the past three years, their progress into the Round of 16 Champions League draw means that a new Europa League champion will be crowned for the first time since Chelsea lifted the trophy in 2013.
But the trends will tell us that at least one side in the final is likely to be a side that dropped out from the Champions League, with 7 of the last 8 finals containing a side who fell out Europe’s premier club competition.
One game that might catch your eye is Manchester United’s clash with St Ettiene, and not just because the return fixture will be played on a Wednesday, but because this will see the Pogba brothers face off against each other.
His older brother, Florentin Pogba has played 18 times for the French side, 9 of which coming in the Europa League. No doubt that the world’s most expensive player also prefers the Europa League, having scored every 233 minutes in the European competition compared to every 450 minutes in the league.
Ahead of the knockout stage, what are some other key facts to look out for?
Well Shakhtar Donetsk are the only side to have qualified having won all 6 of their group games, and also scored 21 goals in the process, four more than Zenit who scored the second highest. But with the Ukrainians playing Celta Vigo, and the Russians playing Anderlecht, the draw has been far from kind to two sides who could face a stern test in the next round.