Europa League round of 16: away goals rule and what happens if there’s a tie?
With qualification for the quarter-finals on the line, will away goals count for extra if all’s square in tonight’s Europa League ties?
The Europa League round of 16 will be concluded on Thursday evening with eight games played across two time slots to determine the quarter-finalists. Manchester United look assured of their place in the final eight after a comprehensive 4-1 victory in the first leg, but the remaining seven games are finely poised going into the second leg.
The likes of Arsenal, Juventus and Roma are battling for a place in the quarter-finals and supporters could soon be frantically exactly what score their team required to guarantee that they advance to the next round.
Here’s everything you need to know about the away goals rule in the Europa League...
Do Europa League away goals carry extra weight?
The way in which two-legged ties in European competitions could potentially be decided has changed in recent years.
For as long as most of us can remember, the ‘away goals rule’ meant that teams were ‘rewarded’ for finding the net away from home. Specifically, if a tie finished level after the two legs, the team that had scored the most goals away from home across the two matches would progress to the next stage.
The rule was also in place for two-legged finals in the UEFA Cup – the precursor to the Europa League – between 1971-72 and 1996-97, although none were ever decided this way.
But after decades of use UEFA opted to stop using the away goals rule in June 2021 in all European competitions. There will be no added weight for away goals in tonight’s fixtures and games ending with the scores level will go to extra time and then, if required, penalties.
Why did UEFA abolish the away goals rule?
The ‘away goals rule’ was originally introduced in the (now defunct) UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965-66 because it was deemed that playing away from home put teams at a huge disadvantage. Players were forced to spend a long time travelling to games (flying was much less common than it is now) and with few away fans in attendance.
The rule was theoretically an incentive for teams to be more adventurous in away matches, when the odds were stacked against them. However in the modern age of luxury travel for players and a more consistent experience in stadiums across the continent, the away side’s disadvantage is greatly reduced.
UEFA recently published some figures to explain their decision to make the historic change: “Statistics since the mid-1970s show a clear trend of continuous reduction in the gap between the number of home-away wins (from 61%-19% to 47%-30%) and the average number of goals per match scored at home-away (from 2.02-0.95 to 1.58-1.15) in men’s competitions”.
There was also a suggestion that, rather than encouraging away teams to attack, the away goals rule prompted home teams to set up defensively in an attempt to prevent the away goal. Not exactly a recipe for entertaining matches.
What happens when a game is tied?
If a Europa League round of 16 tie ends all-square at the end of the second leg, the game will go to extra-time, a 30-minute period of play comprised of two halves of 15 minutes.
If the score is still level at the end of the 30 minutes, the game will be decided from the penalty spot - a shootout involving five players from each side. The shootout will go to sudden death if the score remains tied after both teams have taken all of their five spot-kicks.
Teams who play the second leg at home could be deemed to have a slight advantage as they have the prospect of playing an extra 30 minutes – and taking penalties – in their home ground in front of their own fans.
Who plays who in the Europa League round of 16?
All ties will be played over two legs, with second legs played on Thursday 16 March. Here are those fixtures, with the current scores...
When is the Europa League quarter-final draw?
The draw for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final (i.e. home/away team) is on Friday 17 March.
Europa League quarter-finals
Europa League semi-finals
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