Liverpool to play Sparta Prague in Europa League round of 16

AP , Friday 23 Feb 2024

Liverpool will go to Sparta Prague for the first leg of the Europa League round of 16. The trip could have been much farther than the Czech Republic.

UEFA Europa League draw
A photo shows a draw bowl during the draw for the round of 16 of the 2023-2024 UEFA Europa League football tournament at the House of European Football in Nyon, on February 23, 2024. Photo: AFP


Qarabag was among the potential opponents in Friday's draw, but the Azerbaijani club was paired with Bayer Leverkusen.

That means a long trip to Baku for a March 7 midweek game for the Bundesliga leader.

The travel still won't be considered ideal for Liverpool, which has a huge English Premier League match against Manchester City on March 10.

Liverpool, Leverkusen and the other six teams that topped their groups will host the second-leg matches a week after their openers away from home.

"The first thing to say is that at this stage of European competition it makes sense to expect a proper test and this is what we have got,” manager Jurgen Klopp told Liverpool's website.

At this stage, teams from the same national association cannot meet.

The Europa League final is on May 22 in Dublin.

Alonso's travel

The eight group-stage winners qualified directly for the round of 16. The group stage runners-up played the eight third-place teams from the Champions League group stage in the playoffs to get into the draw, held at UEFA headquarters.

Leverkusen faces Qarabag in the knockout round after the teams also met in the group stage — Leverkusen won 5-1 at home and 1-0 in Baku. Qarabag bagged a stoppage-time goal in extra time Thursday against Braga to reach the round of 16 in a European competition for the first time.

West Ham beat Freiburg home and away in the group stage. They will meet again in the last 16.

Roma advanced Thursday with a penalty shootout victory over Feyenoord in their playoff, and next faces Brighton.

The round-of-16 matchups

(group winners listed first, playing away on March 7):

Atalanta vs. Sporting Lisbon

Bayer Leverkusen vs. Qarabag

Brighton vs. Roma

Liverpool vs. Sparta Prague

Rangers vs. Benfica

Slavia Prague vs. AC Milan

Villarreal vs. Marseille

West Ham vs. Freiburg.

Europa Conference League

Ajax was drawn to play Aston Villa in Europe's third-tier competition. The English club topped its group to qualify directly for the round of 16. Ajax advanced on Thursday when Kenneth Taylor scored the winner in extra time to defeat Norwegian host Bodø/Glimt 2-1 — and 4-3 on aggregate in their knockout playoff.

The Europa Conference League final is on May 29 in Athens — with Greek clubs PAOK and Olympiacos still in the running.

The round-of-16 matchups

(group winners listed first, playing away on March 7):

Aston Villa vs. Ajax

Club Brugge vs. Molde

Fenerbahçe vs. Union Saint-Gilloise

Fiorentina vs. Maccabi Haifa

Lille vs. Sturm Graz

Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Olympiakos

PAOK vs. Dinamo Zagreb

Viktoria Plzen vs. Servette.

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