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Sports

UEFA Europa League Qualified and Matches in the Knockout Round Playoffs

As football kicks off into 2024, there is renewed attention on European competition for those teams who are still in this year’s knockout rounds. For the Europa League, the knockout round playoffs begin on Thursday, February 15. The teams who go on from there will qualify for the last 16, where the group winners will be the seeded team against the winners from the group runners-up, and the teams who joined from the Champions League group stage.

There are still some massive teams in the tournament, including Jose Mourinho’s Roma.

Standout Performances – Teams to Watch

Roma are far from the only major European side in the round. AC Milan are there, as are Marseille, and Galatasaray will also take part.

With Mourinho leading Roma once more, he is on the hunt for more European glory as the only manager to win all three current UEFA tournaments, though, with the powerful striking duo of Andre Belotti and Romelu Lukaku both on the mark in a 3-0 win over Sheriff last year. Feyenoord will be a much tougher opponent.

Milan were knocked out of a Champions League group featuring Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle United and Borussia Dortmund, and as they challenge for Serie A against Juventus and Internazionale, Stefano Pioli might decide to focus his energies on the Europa League when they play Rennes.

Marseille meanwhile are well off the pace in the hunt for the Ligue 1 title, and coming up against a twice-displaced Shakhtar Donetsk, they will need to be at their best to get into the last 16, and will hope Pierre Emerick-Aubmeyang is at his inspiring best. A thrilling 4-3 win over Ajax last year was the team at its frenetic best.

Key Matchups in the Playoff Round

One of the most important matches this round could be Lens vs. Freiburg. The French side beat Arsenal in the Champions League group stages, and were runners-up to PSG in the league last season. This year they are out of the running for the title so may see the Europa League as their best chance both of glory and Champions League qualification.

After the controversy surrounding the failed attempt to hold the Turkish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, one of the participants, Galatasaray, will look to land some rare European glory for their country. They will be favourites against Sparta Praha, and with Mauro Icardi, Hakim Ziyech and Wilfried Zaha in their line-up, they are one of the most dangerous teams still in the tournament.

H2: Team Analyses – Strengths and Strategies

Feyenoord will not be cowed against Roma. While Mourinho boasts tactical expertise and European experience, his current side are not the equal of his best at Chelsea, Real Madrid or Inter, and they failed to land the same trophy last season. Mourinho appears unusually settled in Italy despite speculation he would leave the club for the Saudi Pro League, but with the highly-rated Arne Slot as manager, and the freescoring Santiago Gimenez up front, Feyenoord pose a stern test.

While Rennes seem stranded in mid-table in Ligue 1, AC Milan will be favourites in their two-legged tie. Rafael Leao’s stock may have fallen of late but he is one of the most devastating forwards in European football, and as Olivier Giroud will line up alongside him, repeats of performances such as a 2-1 win at St James’ Park are possible.

Socios.com Partnership – Supporting Qualified Teams

Socios has partnerships with TEAMS, amongst others, in the Europa League.

By earning  Fan Rewards and utilising  Fan Tokens, fans can get behind-the-scenes access, VIP tickets, meet team  legends, check in to matches, choose their favourite players, new team strips and merchandise, and stay right at the centre  of the action, all while being rewarded for their passionate commitment.

Road to the Last-16 – Anticipating the Draw

Teams in the playoffs need to get through to earn their spot in the last-16 ties. After that, teams such as West Ham (the Europa Conference League champions), Brighton, Liverpool and Rangers will be reintroduced to play for the right to move onto the quarter-finals.

At that point, some fascinating ties between Premier League and Serie A clubs could capture the attention of fans.

Fan Engagement – Predictions and Reactions

You can be part of the experience of the playoff round by giving your opinions, voting in polls, or having your say on social media. One of the best ways to get involved is for you to predict how each of the knockout matches will turn out, and who will get through to the Europa League round of 16.

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