Chelsea FC will begin their bid to become only the fourth side to have won all three of UEFA's major club competitions away to AC Sparta Praha after today's draws for the UEFA Europa League rounds of 32 and 16.
The west London team are seeking consolation after becoming the first UEFA Champions League holders to be knocked out before the turn of the year. They have met Sparta before, securing a victory and a draw in the UEFA Champions League group stage, but the round of 32 will be largely a voyage into the unknown: only four of the other sides have met before in UEFA competition.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen and SL Benfica played out a ten-goal thriller in the 1993/94 European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals, the Portuguese team prevailing on away goals. There was not much in it when Tottenham Hotspur FC encountered Olympique Lyonnais in the 1967/68 Cup Winners' Cup second round either, the French outfit advancing after a 4-4 aggregate draw. The tie will have extra resonance for Hugo Lloris, who spent four years at Lyon before moving to England in the summer.
The draw, conducted by UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino and UEFA director of competitions Giorgio Marchetti, assisted by final ambassador Patrick Kluivert, also paired two of the nine former competition winners in the hat: three-time victors Liverpool FC and FC Zenit St Petersburg. Another, AFC Ajax, will take on FC Steaua Bucureşti – a side from the city hosting this season's final against a team from the city that staged last term's.
Holders Club Atlético de Madrid will face FC Rubin Kazan, and could meet domestic rivals Levante UD in the round of 16 after that draw was also made in Nyon. German clubs VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfB Stuttgart are also on a collision course but must first, of course, negotiate last-32 ties on 14 and 21 February.
Round of 32 draw
1 FC BATE Borisov v Fenerbahçe SK
2 FC Internazionale Milano v CFR 1907 Cluj
3 Levante UD v Olympiacos FC
4 FC Zenit St Petersburg v Liverpool FC
5 FC Dynamo Kyiv v FC Girondins de Bordeaux
6 Bayer 04 Leverkusen v SL Benfica
7 Newcastle United FC v FC Metalist Kharkiv
8 VfB Stuttgart v KRC Genk
9 Club Atlético de Madrid v FC Rubin Kazan
10 AFC Ajax v FC Steaua Bucureşti
11 FC Basel 1893 v FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
12 FC Anji Makhachkala v Hannover 96
13 AC Sparta Praha v Chelsea FC
14 VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach v S.S. Lazio
15 Tottenham Hotspur FC v Olympique Lyonnais
16 SSC Napoli v FC Viktoria Plzeň
The first legs will be played on 14 February, with the returns the following Thursday, on 21 February.
Round of 16 draw
Napoli/Plzeň v BATE/Fenerbahçe
Leverkusen/Benfica v Dynamo/Bordeaux
Anji/Hannover v Newcastle/Metalist
Stuttgart/Genk v Mönchengladbach/Lazio
Tottenham/Lyon v Inter/CFR Cluj
Levante/Olympiacos v Atlético/Rubin
Basel/Dnipro v Zenit/Liverpool
Ajax/Steaua v Sparta/Chelsea
The first legs will be played on 7 March, with the returns the following Thursday, on 14 March.
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