The Europa League is the secondary tournament to the prestigious Champions League. Formerly known as the Fairs Cup and UEFA Cup, teams from all over Europe will be competing in both group and knock-out stages. There are 12 groups and then eight teams from the Champions League (those finishing third in their groups) join to create a knock-out stage with 32 teams battling it out to lift the trophy.
It may be seen as a lesser tournament and the top teams do tend to play weakened sides. However, the importance of this competition cannot be denied. It's amazing how club managers show added interest in the latter stages. Why? Well, the winners of this competition gain a place in next season's Champions League and that could be worth millions of pounds to their club.
Teams qualify for the Europa League in two ways. Firstly, they can qualify via their league position the previous season. They could finish as low as seventh in the table and find themselves in the Europa League. The other route into the Europa League is to win your domestic cup, that used to take you into the European Cup Winners Cup in the past.
There have been some big winners of the Europa League in recent years. Last season saw an all English Premier League final as Chelsea defeated Arsenal. It was a tough night for the losing finalists as they needed to win the trophy to qualify for the Champions League. Before that, the Europa League had been won by Sevilla, Manchester United and Atletico Madrid. The latter won the trophy after being transferred from the Champions League. Sevilla may not have been winners of La Liga or made much impact in the Champions League but they won the Europa League three seasons in a row from 2014-16. Adding on UEFA Cup wins and they have a record five wins.
Ties to be played on March 12 and 19.
There are some tasty ties to look forward to in the last 16 of the Europa League. Inter Milan are one of the favourites to win the Europa League this season and have to take on Getafe from Spain. Their opponents have been a surprise side this season and it'll be interesting to see just how they get on against Inter. Two English sides contested the Europa League final last season and they have two remaining teams this season. Both Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers have been given good draws in the last 16. United face Austria's LASK Linz, while Wolves are up against Olympiakos who beat Arsenal in the last 32. With the two English sides playing the away legs first, they both have a good chance of progressing to the last eight. Perhaps the tie of the round is Sevilla up against Serie A's Roma, that should be an exciting tie.
The knock-out stages took place in the final two weeks of February. Below are the aggregate scores.
Group A: Sevilla 15 APOEL 7 Qarabag 4 F91 Dudelange 3
Group B: Copenhagen 9 Malmo 8 Dynamo Kiev 6 Lugano 2
Group C: Basel 10, Getafe 9 Krasnodar 9 Trabzonspor 1
Group D: Sporting Lisbon 12 LASK 10 PSV 7 Rosenborg 0
Group E: Celtic 13 CFR Cluj 9 Lazio 6 Rennes 1
Group F: Arsenal 10 Eintracht Frankfurt 9 Standard Liege 7 Vitoria de Guimaraes 2
Group G: Rangers 8 Porto 7 Young Boys 7 Feyenoord 5
Group H: Espanyol 11Ludogorets Razgrad 7 Ferencvaros 6 CSKA Moscow 2
Group I: Gent 9 Wolsfburg 8 Saint-Etienne 4 Oleksandriya 3
Group J: Borussia Monchengladbach 8 Roma 8 Istanbul Basaksehir 7 Wolfsberger 4
Group K: Braga 11 Wolves 19 Slovan Bratislava 4 Besiktas 3
Group L: ,Manchester United 10 AZ Alkmaar 9 Partizan 5 FC Astana 3
The top two in each of the groups qualified for the last 32 and have been joined by the eight sides that finished third in their Champions League group - Inter Milan, Ajax, Club Brugge, Olympiacos, Shakhtar Donetsk, Bayer Leverkusen, Red Bull Salzburg and Benfica.
This isn't the easiest of competitions to predict. There are several factors that have to be taken into consideration. There's the fact that teams tend to play weakened sides in the Europa League. This is definitely the case in the group stages. Choosing to bet clubs that have strong squads and a light injury list is a good suggestion. Always keep an eye out for the team news before you place a bet on the Europa League. That's especially the case in second leg ties in the knock-out rounds after big first leg victories.
When it comes to deciding who will lift the trophy, you have to remember this is a slightly different competition to others you might bet on. Not all the teams who will take part in the knock-out stages are even in the Europa League yet. The eight teams who finish third in their Champions League group will be transferred to the Europa League. That could mean some big teams entering and two seasons ago, Atletico Madrid did just that and went on to win the Europa League.
Ensure that you read the expert views of our tipsters. They will help you make your decison with their excellent and well-researched opinions on the upcoming games. If you are interested also in main european Leagues, Europa League results will influence also weekend football fixtures predictions. That's why our experts always waite the end of Europa League matches to write their tips for the week-end.