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UEFA Europa Conference League: What to look out for on Matchday 1

The inaugural group stage is under way; here's a taste of what lies ahead.

Bryan Cristante (Roma), Harry Kane (Tottenham) and Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin)
Bryan Cristante (Roma), Harry Kane (Tottenham) and Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin)

The first edition of the UEFA Europa Conference League begins this week with 32 teams aiming for the final in Tirana.

UEFA.com picks out some sure-fire headline-makers for Matchday 1, which begins in earnest on Thursday.

Tuesday 14 September
Group A
: Maccabi Tel-Aviv 4-1 Alashkert
Group E
: Maccabi Haifa 0-0 Feyenoord

Thursday 16 September
Group A: HJK Helsinki vs LASK (21:00 CET)
Group B: Flora Tallinn vs Gent (21:00 CET), Anorthosis Famagusta vs Partizan (21:00 CET)
Group C: Roma vs CSKA-Sofia (21:00 CET), Bodø/Glimt vs Zorya Luhansk (21:00 CET)
Group D: Jablonec vs CFR Cluj (21:00 CET), Randers vs AZ Alkmaar (21:00 CET)
Group E: Slavia Praha vs Union Berlin (18:45 CET)
Group F: Slovan Bratislava vs Copenhagen (18:45 CET), Lincoln Red Imps vs PAOK (18:45 CET)
Group G: Rennes vs Tottenham (18:45 CET), Mura vs Vitesse (18:45 CET)
Group H: Kairat Almaty vs Omonoia (16:30 CET), Qarabağ vs Basel (18:45 CET)

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What to look out for?

Five memorable Harry Kane goals

Kane to break Tottenham record
Having ended speculation about his future, Harry Kane propelled Tottenham into the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage with two goals in their play-off win against Paços de Ferreira. He comes into Spurs' opener at Rennes as the club's top continental scorer with 40 goals but needs just one more appearance to break Steve Perryman's record of 64 UEFA club competition games for the club. Tottenham, incidentally, won the first edition of the UEFA Cup (now the UEFA Europa League) in 1971/72. Can they win the first version of another new competition in 2021/22?

New kids on the block
Alashkert will this season become the first Armenian team to feature in a UEFA group stage: some rise for a club only revived ten years ago. A 2013 move to the capital Yerevan upped their ante, and they have quickly established themselves with four Premier League titles. Their campaign kicks off with a meeting with Maccabi Haifa, while the champions of Gibraltar (population: 35,000), Lincoln Red Imps, start out against PAOK. Opponents would do well to take them seriously, considering how Lincoln beat Celtic at home in a UEFA Champions League qualifier in 2016.

Union Berlin celebrate clinching their group stage place
Union Berlin celebrate clinching their group stage placeGetty Images

Can Union break Berlin's duck?
Among the capital cities of the big five European footballing nations – England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – only one has never won a major UEFA club tournament, but Union Berlin could consign that statistic to history after making it to their first group stage. Hertha Berlin were regulars in the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League for a time, and East German side Berliner Dynamo were European Cup Winners' Cup semi-finalists in 1971/72. Union begin away to Slavia Praha, with Maccabi Haifa and Feyenoord lying in wait.

Further ahead?

Mourinho joins exclusive club: European trophies with three clubs

• José Mourinho won the UEFA Champions League with Porto and Inter, and the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League with Porto and Manchester United. Can the Roma boss become the first manager to win all three current major UEFA club trophies? Along with Udo Lattek and Rafael Benítez, he is already one of just three coaches to have won a UEFA trophy with three clubs. Can he make it four in 2021/22?

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Key dates

Group stage
14/16 September: Matchday 1
30 September: Matchday 2
21 October: Matchday 3
4 November: Matchday 4
25 November: Matchday 5
9 December: Matchday 6

Tirana's National Arena will stage the final
Tirana's National Arena will stage the finalUEFA via Getty Images

Knockout stage
13 December: Knockout round play-off draw
17 & 24 February: Knockout round play-offs
25 February: Round of 16 draw
10 & 17 March: Round of 16
18 March: Quarter-final & semi-final draws
7 & 14 April: Quarter-finals
28 April & 5 May: Semi-finals
25 May: Final (National Arena, Tirana)

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