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Europa League round of 16: away goals rule and what happens if there’s a tie?

Going into the round of 16, Manchester United are favourites to win the Europa League, ahead of Premier League rivals Arsenal and Juventus.

Going into the round of 16, Manchester United are favourites to win the Europa League, ahead of Premier League rivals Arsenal and Juventus.

It’s not been the best of weeks for Manchester United – to put it mildly – but their quest for a second trophy of the season (after their Carabao Cup win over Newcastle United) continues on Thursday as the Europa League round of 16 gets underway. After eliminating Barcelona in a clash-of-the titans (can a team who have just lost 7-0 still be called ‘titans’?) in the playoff round, the Red Devils face another two-legged tie against Spanish opposition in the form of Real Betis.

Do Europa League away goals carry extra weight?

The way in which two-legged ties in European competitions could potentially be decided has changed slightly in recent years. For as long as pretty much all of us can all remember, the implementation of 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.

UEFA, however, opted to stop using the away goals rule in June 2021 in all European competitions.

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, with players forced to spend a long time travelling to games (flying was much common than it is now) and few away fans in attendance. The rule was theoretically a reward for teams daring to be adventurous in away matches, when the odds were stacked against them.

However, 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 view that as much as encouraging away teams to attack, it prompted home teams to set up defensively in an attempt to keep a clean sheet at all costs. Not exactly a recipe for entertaining soccer.

What happens when a game is tied?

If the Europa League round of 16 ties are all-square at the end of the second leg, the game will go to extra-time, a 30-minute period of play composed 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 which will then 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 the home team in the first leg shown first in the list below. The first legs of the ties will take place on Thursday 9 March, with the first-leg kick-off times indicated. The second legs played a week later on Thursday 16 March.

  • Bayer Leverkusen vs Ferencvaros (12:45 p.m. ET)
  • Roma vs Real Sociedad (12:45 p.m. ET)
  • Sporting CP vs Arsenal (12:45 p.m. ET)
  • Union Berlin vs Union Saint-Gilloise (12:45 p.m. ET)
  • Sevilla vs Fenerbahce (3:00 p.m. ET)
  • Juventus vs Freiburg (3:00 p.m. ET)
  • Manchester United vs Real Betis (3:00 p.m. ET)
  • Shakhtar Donetsk vs Feyenoord (3:00 p.m. ET)

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

  • First legs: 13 April
  • Second legs: 20 April

Europa League semi-finals

  • First legs: 11 May
  • Second legs: 18 May


  • 31 May

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