The Europa League Round of 32 Qualifiers

    Thursday concluded the lowest level of professional football there is – the group stage of the Europa League. On Monday, we will find out the fixtures for the highest level of professional football there is – the knockout stage of the Europa League.

    Alexa, play the Europa League theme.

    One of the drawbacks of the knockouts, however, is that there a million games to go through before you get to the final, and it can sometimes be daunting to see all those teams in the draw and figure out if you even stand a chance of winning the bloody thing.

    Well, no worries, 90min have you covered. Here’s your comprehensive guide to the Europa League knockout stage and every team’s chances of hoisting the trophy in Gdansk come May – ranked and in tiers.


    Just happy to be here | AHMAD GHARABLI/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Aren’t on FIFA so most people won’t bother scouting them
    Team weaknesses: They’d probably be rated two stars if they were
    Key players: Yonatan Cohen, Dan Glazer, Enric Saborit

    Why poor little Maccabi Tel Aviv you ask? Well, having spoken to a fan of the club, he assures me that they are definitely the worst team remaining in the competition. And who am I to doubt him?

    Team strengths: No longer being held back by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
    Team weaknesses: No longer being spearheaded by Erling Haaland
    Key players: Magnus Wolff Eikrem, Leke James, Fredrik Aursnes

    Molde lose points because they managed to finish below the reserves of the worst Arsenal team of all time in the group stage.

    UEFA Europa League"Feyenoord Rotterdam v Wolfsberger AC"
    Great s***housery | ANP Sport/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Might fool teams into thinking they’re Wolfsburg
    Team weaknesses: Are, in fact, not Wolfsburg
    Key players: Michael Liendl, Dejan Joveljic, Mario Leitgeb

    Austrian side Wolfsberger managed to knock out Feyenoord and CSKA Moscow, so they clearly are capable of playing association football at least.

    KAA Gent v Crvena Zvezda: Group L - UEFA Europa League
    Also known as Red Star Belgrade, of course | Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Intimidating atmosphere at Rajko Mitić Stadium
    Team weaknesses: Their home games will likely be played behind closed doors
    Key players: Mirko Ivanic, Aleksandar Katai, Ben

    Always picked out as ‘a tricky place to go’, but maybe this time around it’ll be ‘a pretty nice place to go tbh Belgrade is a lovely city’.


    Team strengths: If you translate their name into Spanish, they become ‘Real Antwerp’
    Team weaknesses: Are unfortunately Belgian
    Key players: Lior Refaelov, Dieumerci Mbokani, Faris Haroun

    How do I know Royal Antwerp can score a goal? Because I watched them beat my beloved Tottenham 1-0 in the group stage. It wasn’t fun.

    Josko Gvardiol, Mario Gavranovic
    Dinamo are in Monday’s draw | Pixsell/MB Media/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Their main supporters group is called the ‘Bad Blues Boys’
    Team weaknesses: Tell me with a straight face that they aren’t going out immediately
    Key players: Dominik Livakovic, Arijan Ademi, Bruno Petkovic

    Good evening, sir. Would you please leave without a fuss, right now?

    The 7364th team to score against Kepa Arrizabalaga | KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Have a really, really cool stadium
    Team weaknesses: Literally conceded a goal to Jorginho
    Key players: Remy Cabella, Marcus Berg, Wanderson

    Krasnodar finished above a pretty decent Rennes team in order to drop into the Europa League, but they also conceded two late goals to 10-man Sevilla, so it’s impossible to say if they’re good or not.

    Team strengths: Ended Basel’s reign of Swiss terror
    Team weaknesses: God, imagine trying to explain their team name
    Key players: Jean-Pierre Nsame, Miralem Sulejmani, Christian Fassnacht

    Not bad for a team of young boys!

    Is this mic on?

    Team strengths: Come from a beautiful city
    Team weaknesses: Architecture doesn’t win football matches
    Key players: Ondrej Kolar, Nicolae Stanciu, Peter Olayinka

    The spirit of Tomas Soucek will hopefully guide Slavia through the knockout stage again. But probably won’t.


    Congratulations on not going pointless in the Champions League | SERGEI SUPINSKY/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Adapted to the cold and will fear no opponent
    Team weaknesses: Everything else
    Key players: Viktor Tsyhankov, Vladyslav Supriaha, Carlos de Pena

    Poor Dynamo have been through the ringer so far in Europe this season, already taking a couple of thrashings from Barcelona and Juventus. And they aren’t even that good anymore.

    Some nice rocks you have there | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Have strong Europa League heritage
    Team weaknesses: Europa League heritage is another way of saying they’re losers
    Key players: Ricardo Horta, Paulinho, Galeno

    Braga’s entire transfer budget gets spent on ballboys to traverse the quarry their stadium is built on, but still managed to sign Man Utd rumour mill legend Nico Gaitan. Impressive.

    Ruud Vormer
    Brugge are dropping down from the Champions League | Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Belgian champions
    Team weaknesses: They were awarded the title by default before any playoffs could take place
    Key players: Simon Mignolet, Hans Vanaken, Emmanuel Dennis

    If Simon Mignolet is among your best players you’re just not going to win the Europa League, alright?

    Mathieu Valbuena
    Yep, he’s still kicking about | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Have won the Greek league 107 times and it’s only been going 106 years (according to Paul Merson)
    Team weaknesses: This might need fact-checking
    Key players: Mathieu Valbuena, Ruben Semedo, Youssef El Arabi

    Last season’s round of 32 tie with Arsenal was great fun. We’re delighted to be welcoming Olympiacos back.

    Denzel Dumfries, Mohamed Ihattaren, Joel Piroe, Adrian Fein
    Through to the last 32 | Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Team strengths: They have World Cup winner Mario Gotze!
    Team weaknesses: He’s reportedly investing in a marijuana business with Andre Schurrle so he might be a bit busy
    Key players: Donyell Malen, Noni Madueke, Mario Gotze (maybe)

    Remember hipster manager Roger Schmidt? He’s back from China and leading PSV straight to a round of 16 exit.

    Team strengths: Somehow all of their players are wonderkids
    Team weaknesses: Will probably be without Dominik Szoboszlai come February
    Key players: Sekou Koita, Patson Daka, not Dominik Szoboszlai

    UEFA make Salzburg drop the Red Bull name in European competitions, making them a little less tin can and a little more tinpot all at once.

    Team strengths: Spanish teams tend to do well in the Europa League
    Team weaknesses: Roberto Soldado in 2020? Really?
    Key players: Darwin Machis, Rui Silva, Jesus Vallejo

    Thinking about that time someone tried to book a flight to Granada and ended up at Grenada instead.

    Maximilian Beier, Kasim Adams, Munas Dabbur, Robert Skov
    Back again, Hoffenheim? | Alex Grimm/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Have some pretty tidy players
    Team weaknesses: Point out ‘Hoffenheim’ on a map of Germany, I dare you
    Key players: Andrej Kramaric, Florian Grillitsch, Sebastian Rudy

    Julian Nagelsmann may be gone, but it’s still nice to see Hoffenheim flourishing with a young-ish core that’ll inevitably be ripped apart.


    Yusuf Yazici, Timothy Weah
    Lille could claim a few scalps | Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

    Team strengths: No longer being held back by Nicolas Pepe
    Team weaknesses: I’ve already made this joke so that’s a shame
    Key players: Renato Sanches, Yusuf Yazici, Mike Maignan

    Ooh, a contender, nice. Shame there’s 14 teams ahead of you in the queue.

    Standard Liege v SL Benfica: Group D - UEFA Europa League
    What a gorgeous shade of red | Isosport/MB Media/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Have by far the nicest kits in the competition
    Team weaknesses: They’re literally cursed
    Key players: Darwin Nunez, Pizzi, Jan Vertonghen

    It’s nice to see Bela Guttman’s curse still going strong after all these years. Here’s to another season of Benfica misery in Europe.

    Team strengths: Steven Gerrard might be the best manager in the world
    Team weaknesses: I’m sure that’ll change
    Key players: James Tavernier, Alfredo Morelos, Ryan Kent

    I found Rangers’ landing spot by thinking ‘okay, which of these teams would I definitely NOT back them against?’. The answer was right here.

    Team strengths: Beat Real Madrid home and away
    Team weaknesses: Still somehow were eliminated from the Champions League
    Key players: Tete, Marlos, Taison

    A place in the knockout stages of the Champions League was there for the taking and Shakhtar decided to park the bus. Respect.

    Team strengths: Great Twitter content
    Team weaknesses: Football team aren’t as great
    Key players: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Edin Dzeko, Pedro

    Roma’s average squad age of about 47 might hinder them come the back-end of the season.

    David Neres
    Ajax’s core looks a bit different to the one from a couple of years ago | Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Loveable team
    Team weaknesses: Might have that Benfica curse
    Key players: Dusan Tadic, Daley Blind, Quincy Promes

    I know Ajax get asset-stripped every summer and they’re fine with that, but how have they ended up in the Europa League again?

    Team strengths: Surely can’t be this bad forever
    Team weaknesses: Threat of relegation might see them tank the Europa League
    Key players: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Gabriel, Thomas Partey

    At the time of writing, Arsenal are 15th in the Premier League, so they’re lucky to even be this high on the list.

    Leon Bailey, Wendell, Julian Baumgartlinger, Daley Sinkgraven
    Leverkusen have made a decent start to the Bundesliga season | Pool/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Have bounced back from selling Kai Havertz
    Team weaknesses: ‘Neverkusen’
    Key players: Moussa Diaby, Lucas Alario, Leon Bailey

    A team named after a pharmaceutical company might have a good chance of winning a major tournament after this hellish year.


    Jamie Vardy
    Coming to a Europa League knockout game near you… | Pool/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Jamie Vardy needs European glory to complete his story arc
    Team weaknesses: Even with just 2,000 fans back you’ll still hear those clappers
    Key players: Jamie Vardy, James Maddison, Ricardo Pereira

    Big Brendan Rodgers is on the hunt for European glory, and he might just get it if he keeps his Brent-isms to himself.

    Team strengths: They have David Silva
    Team weaknesses: They only have one David Silva
    Key players: David Silva, Portu, Alexander Isak

    The Royal Society of San Sebastian have made a great start to the season, and deservedly rank high among the frontrunners.

    Gennaro Gattuso
    Did you forget Rino Gattuso was Napoli manager? | Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Best stadium announcer in the world
    Team weaknesses: That seems a bit redundant right now
    Key players: Dries Mertens, Kalidou Koulibaly, Hirving Lozano

    Always there or thereabouts in the latter stages of the Europa League, Napoli look pretty well placed to make a run.

    Team strengths: Zlatan Ibrahimovic is reborn
    Team weaknesses: There must be a catch
    Key players: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Hakan Calhanoglu, Gianluigi Donnarumma

    Milan being good is good for football. So you better appreciate them while they’re good before they’re not good again.

    Unai Emery head coach
    A genius at work | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

    Team strengths: Unai Emery, Europa League extraordinaire
    Team weaknesses: Unai Emery, meme extraordinaire
    Key players: Dani Parejo, Pau Torres, Paco Alcacer

    Please, please, PLEASE can Villarreal meet Arsenal at some point.

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
    Not a genius, not at work | Pool/Getty Images

    Team strengths: I’m not using the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer joke again
    Team weaknesses: Yes I am. Being held back by Ole Gunn-
    Key players: Bruno Fernandes, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford

    On paper, United are easily one of the strongest teams. But football is played on a pitch, where they’re consistently inconsistent.

    Team strengths: As the old song goes, ‘Tottenham are the greatest team the world has ever seen’
    Team weaknesses: Lads, it’s Tottenham
    Key players: Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Hugo Lloris

    I anticipate that Spurs will fall out of serious Premier League title race contention by the time the knockout stages kick off, and so Jose Mourinho will try-hard his way to another Europa League title.

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