New-look Europa League

New-look Europa League

FC Barcelona are in the competition for the first time in 18 years, and a lot has changed since their last participation

FC Barcelona are competing in the Europa League for the first time since the 2003/04 season. The goal in to reach the final on May 18 at the Sánchez Pizjuán, Seville, but that will be no easy task. There are five rounds to get through on the way. Here’s the lowdown on what an unfamiliar environment from a Barça perspective entails.

Playoff to begin

There has been a change to the Europa League format this season. There is no round of 32 as there used to be. Instead, the eight group winners from the first stage progress directly to the first knockout round proper, and the eight runners-up go into a playoff against the teams that finished third in their Champions League groups, one of which is FC Barcelona.

The teams that played in the Champions League will all be playing the first legs at home:

Sevilla v Dinamo Zagreb
Atalanta v Olympiacos
RB Leipzig v Real Sociedad
FC Barcelona v Napoli
Zenit Saint Petersburg v Real Betis
Borussia Dortmund v Rangers
Sheriff Tiraspol v Braga
Porto v Lazio

This will be the first time that Barça have played a European fixture since the elimination of the away goals rule. If aggregate scores are matches after two games, there will be extra time and penalties in the second leg regardless of who scored the most goals away from home.

Round of 16

If Barça progress against Napoli, they will also play the first leg of their round of 16 tie at Camp Nou.

At the draw in Nyon on February 25, they would be matched against one of the following group stage winners: Olympique Lyon, Monaco, West Ham, Bayern Leverkusen, Eintracht Frankfurt, Spartak Moscow, Galatasaray and Red Star Belgrade

Wide open tournament

Looking at the teams involved, there are no teams that stand head and shoulders over the rest, suggesting that this is going to be a very interesting contest indeed. However, Barça is by far the team with the highest UEFA coefficient (108), followed by fellow Liga side Sevilla (88), then Borussia Dortmund (78), Porto (78), RB Leipzig (75), Lyon (70), Napoli (66) and Atalanta (59.5).

But the stats don’t tell the full story. There are other sides like Zenit, Olympiacos, Dinamo Zagreb and Sheriff Tiraspol who are currently top of their national leagues, and the likes of Napoli, Dortmund, Leverkusen and West Ham are all having excellent seasons in some of Europe’s toughest championships.

La Liga well represented

There are no fewer than four La Liga teams in the competition. Barça are joined by Sevilla, Betis and Real Sociedad, who have all been performing very well this season.

No team has a stronger love affair with this competition than Sevilla, who have won it more than anybody else, six times, with all of those wins coming since the turn of the century (2006, 2007, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2020). 

The final in the Sánchez Pizjuán in Seville

The competition will reach its conclusion at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium on 18 May, a ground where Xavi Hernández's Barça played out a 1-1 draw back in December in La Liga. First, however, is the task of getting past Italian side Napoli to ensure a place in the last 16 with the first leg of the play off on Thursday at 6.45pm CET at Camp Nou

Força Barça
Força Barça

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