The 2023/22 Europa League campaign is inching closer to its return as we take a look at all eight Round-of-32 ties. The eight winners from the Round of 32 ties will proceed to the Round of 16, where they will meet the winners of the group stages.
Courtesy of the sports news site TheSportsToday, we have previews and predictions for all eight playoffs below.
Barcelona vs Napoli
It may sound a bit odd and unrealistic, but Barcelona and Napoli are set to square off in a mouth-watering Europa League play-off tie.
Barcelona’s European journey continues in the second tier as they have failed to negotiate their Champions League group stage campaign for the first time in 21 years.
Given that their chances of conquering La Liga already look like a sci-fi, Xavi’s men could be looking to save their first season by lifting the Europa League crown.
With a long-serving stalwart Lionel Messi no longer in the picture, the Catalans are sinking without a trace, which gives Napoli every reason to hope for a positive outcome here.
The Partenopei are flying high in Serie A again following a rough patch and are firmly in contention for their first league title since 1989/90, and an upset here looks very plausible.
Prediction: Napoli to reach Round of 16
Borussia Dortmund vs Rangers
Despite fashioning a serious title challenge in the Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund have failed to live up to expectations in Europe this season, dropping out of the Champions League group stage.
However, Marco Rose’s men will be warm favourites to make their way to the Europa League last-16 when they take on Rangers in an exciting play-off tie.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst has maintained the Gers’ reign of dominance in the Scottish Premiership after succeeding former manager Steven Gerrard at the helm.
But Rangers’ showings in the Europa League group stage this season douses any embers of optimism when it comes to overcoming one of Europe’s most entertaining sides.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund to reach Round of 16
Sheriff Tiraspol vs Braga
Sheriff Tiraspol’s debut Champions League campaign got off to a flying start as they defeated the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk and non-other than Real Madrid.
But the Moldovan powerhouse ran out of steam as their group stage journey progressed, ultimately switching over to the Europa League last-32.
After Sheriff’s spirited showings in Europe’s most prominent competition, Braga would be foolish to take them lightly in this evenly-poised play-off tie.
Carlos Carvalhal’s men have delivered a mixed bag of performances this season, and they will likely have to work their socks off if they are to advance to their first Europa League Round of 16 since 2015/16.
Prediction: Braga to reach Round of 16
Zenit St Petersburg vs Real Betis
Zenit St Petersburg crashing out of the Champions League group phase has become some sort of a pattern, as they have now exited the competition at this stage for the third season running.
The Russian heavyweights will draw confidence from edging past the Europa League last-32 in their last two attempts when they meet La Liga high-flyers Real Betis.
While the Spaniards may not exactly be a definition of experienced European campaigners, their domestic success this season suggests they mean business.
Sitting third in the La Liga standings, above Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, among others, Los Verdiblancos will relish their chances of reaching the Europa League last-16 for the first time since 2013/14.
Prediction: Real Betis to reach Round of 16
Atalanta vs Olympiacos
Atalanta have failed to broker their way to the Champions League knock-outs for the first time in three years, but they have now been given outside chances of lifting the Europa League trophy.
The first roadblock standing between La Dea and their first taste of European glory will be one of the European evergreen outfits Olympiacos.
Yet, despite their extensive European experience, the Greek side will head into proceedings as betting underdogs, something they have been very familiar with over the past couple of years.
After battling their way past the Europa League last-32 in both previous attempts, Olympiacos will believe in their hopes of beating Atalanta here, likely to no avail, though.
Predcition: Atalanta to reach Round of 16
Porto vs Lazio
Porto came agonisingly close to ousting Atletico Madrid and AC Milan from the Champions League group stage before a 3-1 thumping at the hands of the reigning La Liga champions played down those hopes.
So Sergio Conceicao’s men could be in some kind of a psychological knock-down going into their Europa League last-32 tie against an out-of-sorts Lazio.
The Biancocelesti are facing another lacklustre Serie A campaign, and winning Europe’s second-tier competition could be their best chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League group phase.
The task of making any prediction about this tie is arduous and complicated, but it feels like Porto have better chances of advancing to the next round.
Prediction: Porto to reach Round of 16
RB Leipzig vs Real Sociedad
RB Leipzig may be new to European challenges, but they have taken no prisoners en route to earning a reputation as European heavyweights since their Bundesliga promotion in 2016/17.
Despite eking out a 2-1 win over Manchester City in the final fixture of their Champions League group stage campaign, the Germans have to settle for continuing their continental voyage in the Europa League.
Leipzig’s hopes of staying in European football come springtime will be on the line when they lock horns with La Liga outfit Real Sociedad in an intriguing play-off tie.
La Real went from strength to strength in the first half of the season, but they have fallen from the upwards trajectory lately and will have a point to prove here.
Prediction: RB Leipzig to reach Round of 16
Sevilla vs Dinamo Zagreb
So synonymous with the Europa League, Sevilla, who have won the competition more times (six) than any other side, are back in their comfort zone.
Following another underwhelming Champions League group stage campaign, the Andalusian giants will fancy their chances in the competition they last won in 2019/20.
To reach the Round of 16, Los Rojiblancos will have to get past Dinamo Zagreb, who are no strangers to pulling off upsets, as witnessed by their stunning last season’s last-16 success against Tottenham.
But considering Sevilla’s convincing showings in La Liga this term, anything but the Spaniards’ victory would be a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.
Prediction: Sevilla to reach Round of 16