The football season in Europe will begin this August as the top five European leagues will begin the race to the different titles up for grabs. With the French league already a match-day old and the German Super Cup won by Bayern Munich, fans the world over are gearing up for a super season of football.
One competition most will be looking out for is the UEFA Champions League. Although it starts September 12th, the past few weeks have seen different stages of qualifying featuring teams from all over Europe with the ultimate aim being to qualify for the group stages of the competition.
After 3 qualifying rounds, with teams being eliminated after each round, it’s time for the play-offs – the last round of qualification before the group stage begins. The same can also be said of the UEFA Europa League.
What makes the play-offs different from the other rounds is the heavyweights it features. From Liverpool, Celtic, Hoffenheim, Nice, Sevilla in the Champions League to AC Milan, Everton and Ajax in the Europa League, the play-offs will feature tasty clashes and amazing results no thanks to qualification being at stake – and of course the money that comes with that qualification.
With that being said, what does the schedule look like?
The first leg of the UEFA Champions League play-offs will take place between the 15th and 16th of August while the return leg will be played the following week (23rd and 24th). It features two groups: the Champions route and the League route. So, what do the match-ups look like?
- Qarabag v FC Copenhagen
- APOEL v Slavia Prague
- Olympiacos v Rijeka
- Celtic v Astana
- Hapoel Beer Sheva v Maribor
- Istanbul Basaksehir v Sevilla
- Young Boys v CSKA Moscow
- Napoli v Nice
- Hoffenheim v Liverpool
- Sporting Lisbon v Steaua Bucharest
As for the Europa League, it starts on the 17th, with the second leg set to take place a week after. And these are the fixtures you can expect to see:
- Shkendija vs. AC Milan
- Panathinaikos vs. Athletic Bilbao
- Osijek vs. Austria Wien
- Apollon Limassol vs. Midtjylland
- FH Hafnarfjordour vs. Braga
- Club Brugge vs. AEK Athens
- Everton vs. Hajduk Split
- Viitorul vs. Salzburg
- Vardar vs. Fenerbahce
- Maritimo vs. Dynamo Kiev
- Partizan vs. Videoton
- Ajax vs. Rosenborg
- Altach vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv
- Legia Warsaw vs. Sheriff Tiraspol
- Utrecht vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg
- BATE Borisov vs. Olexandriya
- Viktoria Plzen vs. Larnaca
- PAOK vs. Ostersund
- Domzale vs. Marseille
- Dinamo Zagreb vs. Skenderbeu
- Ludogorets vs. Suduva
Fancy making some predictions about the possible outcomes? All you have to do is click on any of the games and you’ll be on your way to back your predictions and earning yourself some money.
At this stage of UEFA club competitions, you won’t be hearing of the likes of Lionel Messi, CR7, or those super strikers who ply their trades in Belgium or Austria or Turkey. At this stage, it’s all about the hustle, yes, but some players will still look like a million stars while they help their teams gain qualification into the group stages of the competition.
Watch out for Suso, Cutrone and Conti of AC Milan in the Europa League. It’s a new Milan we’ll be seeing this season and with their performance against Cracovia, things are looking bright again for the Italian giants.
There’s also the Marseille trio of Luiz Gustavo, F. Thauvin and Dimitri Payet. Another trio to keep an eye out for is the trio of Aduriz, who is a veteran scorer, Inaki Williams and Muniain of Athletic Bilbao – not forgetting Wayne Rooney who is now an Everton player.
In the Champions League, the pace of Liverpool players like Firmino, Mane and Salah is one to definitely watch out for, the doggedness of Sevilla should be on display too even though there’s a new gaffer in town.
Balotelli will be hoping to lead Nice to “promised land” but Hamsik and the boys from Naples will be looking to stop them. Then there’s the famous Hoffenheim side whose 29-year old Nagelsmann won the Bundesliga coach of the season last term.
Now that you know what the fixtures look like, the dates and the players to look out for, which teams do you think will make it all the way to the group stages of both UEFA club competitions? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.Tags: uefa play-offs, uefa playoffs