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UEFA Europa Conference League: What to look out for in the knockout round play-off deciders

The first legs produced a fair amount of excitement, but what twists are yet to come as the ties conclude? Order your popcorn now.

Fenerbahçe's Dimitris Pelkas, Marseille's Dimitri Payet and Bodø/Glimt's Amahl Pellegrino
Fenerbahçe's Dimitris Pelkas, Marseille's Dimitri Payet and Bodø/Glimt's Amahl Pellegrino

With the away goals rule now abolished, first-leg leads no longer look quite so daunting, meaning plenty of intrigue awaits as the UEFA Europa Conference League knockout round play-offs conclude.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car presents UEFA.com's guide to the stand-out stories.

Thursday 24 February
18:45 CET

Qarabağ vs Marseille (first leg: 1-3)
Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs PSV Eindhoven (0-1)
Randers vs Leicester City (1-4)
Bodø/Glimt vs Celtic (3-1)
Partizan vs Sparta Praha (1-0)

21:00 CET
Slavia Praha vs Fenerbahçe (3-2) 
PAOK vs Midtjylland (0-1)
Vitesse vs Rapid Wien (1-2)

No away goals rule

Following the recommendation of the UEFA Club Competitions Committee and the UEFA Women's Football Committee, the UEFA Executive Committee approved in June a proposal to remove the so-called away goals rule from all UEFA club competitions.

With the decision to remove this rule, ties in which the two teams score the same number of goals over the two legs are no longer decided on the number of goals scored away but by two 15-minute periods of extra time and, if necessary, a penalty shoot-out.

Celtic facing freeze-out in the Arctic Circle

Highlights: Bodø/Glimt 6-1 Roma

As the other half of Glasgow celebrated a 4-2 Rangers win at Dortmund in the UEFA Europa League play-offs, Celtic were losing 3-1 at home against Bodø/Glimt, a result which leaves their European quest uncertain. A 6-1 mauling of José Mourinho's Roma in the group stage means no one can call the Norwegian side a surprise package any more, but eliminating former European champions would be a massive coup. "It's about going there and playing our football," said Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou. "When we do that, we're a hard team to knock off. Let's see what happens."

What are the knockout round play-offs?

The UEFA Europa Conference League knockout round play-offs involve 16 teams: the eight runners-up from the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage and the eight third-placed teams from the UEFA Europa League group stage.

The eight winners advance to the round of 16 draw on Friday (the eight group winners have already qualified for this); the eight play-off losers will no longer be involved in 2021/22 European competition.

Marseille and PSV not safe yet

Europa Conference League: Every play-off round first-leg goal

A late goal against Qarabağ gave Marseille a two-goal cushion to take to Azerbaijan, but coach Jorge Sampaoli was less than thrilled with his side's performance and knows their tie is far from over. "In terms of the result, it’s a very good victory," he said, "but in the game, we were not good."

As for PSV, their 1-0 lead against Maccabi Tel-Aviv looks even more fragile as they take a long trip to Israel for the decider. "A 1-0 defeat keeps everything wide open and leaves us with something to play for," explained Maccabi midfielder Gavriel Kanichowsky. "With the support of our fans we could advance, and I hope we do."

Who awaits in the round of 16?

AZ Alkmaar (NED)
Basel (SUI)
Copenhagen (DEN)
Feyenoord (NED)
Gent (BEL)
Rennes (FRA)
Roma (ITA)

The draw takes place at 13:00 CET on Friday, streamed live here.

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Key dates

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

Knockout stage
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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