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Preview: The Europa League Knockout Round Playoff

Barcelona vs Napoli and all the Europa League Knockout Round Play-off fixtures on February 17, 2022

February 17, 2022 By Ali M.
The Blaugrana headline this round with their clash with the Serie A giants. However, that's not the only exciting game as Dortmund will take on Rangers while Real Sociedad lock horns with RB Leipzig.

Everything you need to know about the UEFA Europa League Knockout Round Play-off

Previously, the top two teams from the Europa League's 12 groups would qualify for the round of 32 and would be joined by the eight best third-placed teams from the UEFA Champions League group stage.

However, things are different this time around. The UEL groups are now eight, with the first-placed clubs progressing straight to the last 16. The eight runners-up, who are seeded, entered this Knockout Round Play-off and are joined by the eight teams that crashed out of the UCL, who are thus unseeded. They will face off over two legs, with the winners progressing to the last 16.

Who are the UEFA Europa League Knockout Round Play-off teams?

Seeded (runners-up in the UEL group stage): Real Betis, Sporting Braga, Dinamo Zagreb, Lazio, Napoli, Olympiacos, Rangers, and Real Sociedad

Unseeded (crashed out of the UCL group stage): Atalanta, Barcelona, Dortmund, Leipzig, Porto, Sevilla, Sheriff, and Zenit 

Top games to watch in the UEFA Europa League Knockout Round Play-off

Dortmund vs Rangers: Missing out on the Champions League last 16 to Ajax and Sporting CP was disappointing for Dortmund, but Thursday will hand them the opportunity to turn things around. The German giants will take on Rangers, with BVB looking to put the Scottish champions to the sword in order to make the last 16 of the Europa League. Fortunately, their opponents have struggled to match their standards from last season since Steven Gerrard departed for Aston Villa. Nonetheless, Marco Rose's side will be without their top scorer Erling Haaland, which will come as a huge boost to the visitors.

Barcelona vs Napoli: Two European giants who have become accustomed to playing in the UEFA Champions League will now battle it out in the UEFA Europa League Knockout Round Play-off. Barcelona's fall from grace has been the most notable given their stature in the game, with the Catalan giants failing to make it past the group stage of Europe's premier club competition in their first season without Lionel Messi, finishing in third behind Bayern Munich and Benfica. Napoli, on the other hand, began the season in the Europa League and were expected to seal automatic qualification to the last 16. Unfortunately, the Italians finished behind Spartak Moscow in Group C and will now have to overcome the Blaugrana if they wish to remain in Europe. Who will win this Camp Nou showdown? Tune in to find out.

RB Leipzig vs Real Sociedad: The Bundesliga outfit have gone through a lot this season, from crashing out of the Champions League to sacking their manager. However, RB Leipzig have reclaimed their rhythm, winning all but one of their last six fixtures – that sole defeat coming against Bayern – as Nkunku and Co. look to turn their campaign around. Unfortunately, Real Sociedad stand in their way and the Spaniards are no pushovers. While La Real finished behind Monaco in their group, Isak and Co. remain a capable team as they sit only one point outside the top four in La Liga, making for what should be an interesting battle with RB Leipzig.

Porto vs Lazio: Almost a week after their action-packed 2-2 draw with Sporting CP in the Primeira Liga, Porto are back in action, this time making their debut in the Europa League after their underwhelming Champions League group stage campaign. The Dragons came achingly close to making the last 16 in UEFA's premier competition but were undone by Atletico on the final day. Nonetheless, they were grouped with Liverpool, AC Milan, and Simeone's side, meaning that was always a likely outcome. Lazio, on the other hand, were unable to beat Galatasaray to the top spot in Group E but should be pleased with the fact that they beat Marseille to the runners-up position.

Who's in and who's out

Here are the list of players ruled out for the upcoming round from the UEFA Europa League's top clubs:

Dortmund: Marius Wolf, Thomas Meunier, Erling Haaland, Mateu Morey, and Marcel Schmelzer (injured)

Rangers: Ryan Jack and Ianis Hagi (injured); Nnamdi Ofoborh (unavailable for selection)

Barcelona: Ansu Fati, Samuel Umtiti, Sergi Roberto, Ronald Araujo, and Alejandro Balde (injured); Clement Lenglet and Memphis Depay (doubtful); Dani Alves (unavailable for selection)

Napoli: Matteo Politano, Hirving Lozano, and Stanislav Lobotka (injurd); Axel Tuanzebe (unavailable for selection)

RB Leipzig: Marcel Halstenberg (injured)

Real Sociedad: Ander Barrenetxea, Carlos Fernandez, and Nacho Monreal (injured); Martin Zubimendi (suspended)

Porto: Wilson Manafá (injured); Wendell and Agustin Marchesin (suspended)

Lazio: Manuel Lazzari, Francesco Acerbi, and Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro (injured)

Atalanta: Juan Musso, Jose Luis Palomino, Duvan Zapata, and Aleksei Miranchuk (doubtful)

Full list of games for the UEFA Europa League Knockout Round Play-off

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