Is UEFA trying to save money by drawing two rounds of the Europa League at the same time? Can't this wealthy organization afford two separate ceremonies rather than presenting us with this unwieldy table of pairings reminiscent of a tennis tournament schedule? Or is the reason for determining the match-ups two rounds in advance the simple fact that the rounds succeed each other too quickly, as the schedule has become overly crammed to satisfy UEFA's appetite for more matches (and, presumably, revenue)?
Well, would it not be more comforting for the fans of, say, Lech Poznan if they did not know right away that they will have to face Liverpool in the round of 16, provided they resolve the earlier tie against Sporting Braga? Unfortunately, due to UEFA's advanced planning, the Poles must now be living in terror of their probable next opponents, especially seeing the way Liverpool's magnificent season has been playing out. OK, we are obviously joking, since Lech have ousted Juventus in the group stage and defeated Manchester City, both arguably stronger sides than the current Reds.
Still, determining the intersections of ties beforehand on two occasions per season (one for rounds of 32 and 16, another for quarterfinals and semifinals) cheats the fans out of two major excitements which they would experience if each round was drawn separately. The same objection applies to FIFA, who in its infinite wisdom, also lays out the blueprint of the whole World Cup before it starts, instead of extending the drama of uncertainty throughout the competition.
Sadly, UEFA is traditionally reluctant to accept our suggestion, which means that fans and media will be stuck with voluminous crossword-like tables for the unforeseeable future.
The first legs of the round of 32 will be played on February 17, and the second leg on February 24, unless otherwise indicated. The first named clubs will be hosts in the first leg.
Napoli vs Villarreal
Rangers vs Sporting Lisbon
Sparta Prague vs Liverpool
Anderlecht vs Ajax
Lech vs Sporting Braga
Besiktas vs Dinamo Kiev
Basel vs Spartak Moscow
Young Boys vs Zenit
Aris vs Manchester City*
PAOK Salonika vs CSKA Moscow**
Sevilla vs Porto**
Rubin vs Twente
Lille vs PSV Eindhoven
Benfica vs Stuttgart
BATE Borisov vs Paris SG
Metalist Kharkov vs Bayer
*first leg on February 15
**second leg on February 22
The first leg will be played on March 10, and the second leg on March 17.
Benfica/Stuttgart vs BATE/Paris SG
Besiktas/Dinamo Kiev vs Aris/Manchester City
Rubin/Twente vs Young Boys/Zenit
Sevilla/Porto vs PAOK/CSKA
Lille/PSV vs Rangers/Sporting Lisbon
Metalist/Bayer vs Napoli/Villarreal
Anderlecht/Ajax vs Basel/Spartak
Sparta/Liverpool vs Lech/Sporting Braga
UEFA Cup - all the previous match reports, news and analysis from the old UEFA Cup.