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Why aren’t Liverpool playing in the Europa League?

Jürgen Klopp’s men cruised through the group stage of the UEFA competition and some fans will wonder why they have no fixture scheduled this week.

Jurgen Klopp’s men cruised through the group stage of the UEFA competition and some fans will wonder why they have no fixture scheduled this week.

The Europa League returns today, Thursday 15 February, for the knockout stages of the 2023/24 edition. It may be UEFA’s second-tier club competition but there are always a number of big names in the mix, including eight teams who drop down from the Champions League after failing to progress from their group.

This week sees sixteen teams battle it out in two-legged ties to progress to the Europa League’s Round of 16, but there are some notable absences.

Liverpool, for example, cruised through the group stage but have no Europa League fixture this week. Why? Because the fixtures played across the 15 and 22 February are playoff games, conducted between the teams who finished second in their Europa League groups and teams who finished third in their Champions League groups.

As one of the eight first-placed teams in the Europa League group stage, Liverpool receive a bye and will not be involved until the Round of 16 stage in March.

Which teams have a bye in the Europa League?

There are eight sides still in this year’s competition that will not play in the Europa League this week. Those teams are Atalanta, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bayer Leverkusen, Liverpool, Rangers, Slavia Praha, Villarreal, and West Ham United. These are are the eight teams who won their respective Europa League groups before the competition’s winter break and include some of the strongest teams in the competition.

In addition to Liverpool, who are still in the hunt for four trophies, Bayer Leverkusen are top of the Bundesliga and trounced perennial German champions Bayern Munich last weekend. Leverkusen are yet to lose a game this season and head coach Xabi Alonso has been touted for some of the biggest managerial jobs in the game.

Europa Conference league holders West Ham will also be hoping to make it far in this year’s competition. They were hammered by Arsenal in the Premier League last weekend but David Moyes’ side have shown themselves to be tough opposition in Europe.

Who is playing in the Europa League this week?

Without those eight teams the playoff round will be conducted between eight second-placed Europa League finishers and eight teams who dropped down from the Champions League. Included in that recently-demoted, former-UCL contingent are AC Milan, Sporting Lisbon and Feyenoord.

Here’s the full list of Europa League playoff fixtures...

Europa League fixtures

  • Galatasary - Sparta Praha
  • Shakhtar Donetsk - Marseille
  • Feyenoord - Roma
  • Young Boys - Sporting Lisbon
  • AC Milan - Rennes
  • Braga Qarabag FK
  • Benfica - Toulouse
  • Lens - SC Freiburg

The ties will be decided across two legs, with the first on Thursday 15 February and the second on Thursday 22 February. If the aggregate scores are level the ties will go to extra time and then penalties. The away goals rule will not be used.

When is Liverpool’s next Europa League game?

The Reds’ next fixture comes in the Round of 16. The first leg of those two-legged ties will be played on Thursday 7 March, with the second to be played on Thursday 14 March.

Liverpool’s opponents are, for now, unknown. Once the playoff round has been concluded the Europa League draw will be held on Friday 23 February to decide the ties for the Round of 16.

The eight group stages winners will be seeded for the draw, meaning that Liverpool cannot face any of the other sides who had a bye to the Round of 16. That ensures that they are spared tough games against the likes of Leverkusen and Atalanta.

Teams in the Round of 16 are also unable to be drawn against a team from the same national association. This means, for example, that Atalanta could not face Serie A rivals AC Milan if they get through.