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Europa Conference League knockout round play-off second legs: Game-by-game preview

A rundown of all this week's eight Europa Conference League knockout round play-off second legs.

Celtic captain Callum McGregor leads his team during a training-ground run
Celtic captain Callum McGregor leads his team during a training-ground run SNS Group via Getty Images

Leicester and Marseille have put themselves in a good position to qualify on Thursday, but European heavyweights Celtic, Fenerbahçe and PSV Eindhoven have plenty to do if they are to make it through the UEFA Europa Conference League knockout round play-offs.

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Away goals rule abolished

There has been a rule change for 2021/22: ties level after the second leg will go to extra time and a penalty shoot-out if required, irrespective of the number of away goals a team has scored.

Randers vs Leicester City (agg: 1-4)

Highlights: Leicester 4-1 Randers

The Danish side managed to peg Leicester back just before half-time in the first leg in England, but Brendan Rodgers' men pulled away from them after the interval. It looks like game over, but a slim chance remains that there may be more than pride to play for.

"We will just try to win the game and hope we can get a magic result," said coach Thomas Thomasberg." Captain Vito Hammershøj-Mistrati added: "Before [the first leg], we talked about how we have nothing to lose; now we can say for the next game we have absolutely nothing to lose. The stadium is sold out already so it's going to be a great experience, and hopefully we can pull off a miracle."

Did you know?
Randers need to win by three goals or more to have any hope of qualifying: the only sides they have beaten by margins of three-plus goals are Sliema (6-0, 1968), Linfield (4-0, 2009), Dudelange (6-1, 2010), Gorica (3-0, 2010) and Sant Julià (3-0, 2015).

Bodø/Glimt vs Celtic (agg: 3-1)

Highlights: Celtic 1-3 Bodø/Glimt

Will one of the most remarkable stories in this season's UEFA club competitions keep going in the Arctic Circle? There's every chance it will after Bodø/Glimt's commanding 3-1 win over in-form Celtic in Glasgow. The Norwegian side might still be in their domestic pre-season, but they looked confident in the first leg and have home advantage at a venue where Roma succumbed 6-1 in the Europa Conference League group stage.

Celtic's misery was compounded by a famous 4-2 win for city rivals Rangers at Dortmund on the same night, but coach Ange Postecoglou was not despairing at the prospect of the second leg. "It's still an opportunity," he said. "It's about going there and playing our football. When we do that, we're a hard team to knock off. Let's see what happens."

Did you know?
Bodø/Glimt are one of only two UEFA competition group stage debutants to make it through to the knockout rounds of this season's Europa Conference League. They have lost just once in 13 games so far in the competition, having started out in the second qualifying round.

Slavia Praha vs Fenerbahçe (agg: 3-2)

Highlights: Fenerbahçe 2-3 Slavia Praha

Slavia are out to protect a slender first-leg advantage following a famous victory in Istanbul, helped along by Oscar Dorley's stunning strike. Fenerbahçe must look to overturn a rare knockout home defeat in UEFA competition, and may have given themselves a glimmer of hope via Ferdi Kadıoğlu's late effort to halve the deficit.

Message consistency was not a problem in the Fenerbahçe camp. "We will go to Prague to get a win," coach İsmail Kartal told UEFA.com. "It is not over yet. We believe we will qualify." Midfielder Dimitris Pelkas added: "There is no away goals rule now. We will go to Prague to get a win and quailfy."

Did you know?
Slavia have lost just one of their last 12 UEFA competition home matches (W6 D5 L1), but Fenerbahçe have scored nine of their 15 European goals this season on the road.

Qarabağ vs Marseille (agg: 1-3)

Highlights: Marseille 3-1 Qarabağ

Qarabağ found Arkadiusz Milik in irresistible goalscoring form but arguably had the better of the contest in the first leg, forcing Steve Mandanda into two smart stops and also striking the upright before Kady eventually netted late on. There was still time for substitute Dimitri Payet to restore the two-goal cushion for Jorge Sampaoli's men, but the Azerbaijani outfit proved they could cause Marseille further headaches in Baku.

Marseille coach Sampaoli will certainly not be reading too much into the first leg. "In terms of the result, [it was] a very good victory, but the performance was not good," said the Argentinian. "The team played badly; our opponents were better. They put us under pressure. We have to improve."

Did you know?
Marseille are without a win in their last 11 European away outings.

What next?

Winners of the ties earn a place in Friday's round of 16 draw, where they will be unseeded.

The seeded teams are AZ Alkmaar, Basel, Copenhagen, Feyenoord, Gent, LASK, Rennes and Roma.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs PSV Eindhoven (agg: 0-1)

Highlights: PSV 1-0 M. Tel-Aviv

Missed chances have cost PSV dear in Europe this season. The Dutch side created enough openings to beat Benfica several times over in the Champions League play-offs but contrived to lose. Their Europa League tilt ended with plenty of what-might-have-beens and, having failed to truly convert their dominance in the first leg against Maccabi, they can be forgiven some doubts. Cody Gakpo, at least, showed no signs of the malady, and has scored in three of the last four games.

Coach Roger Schmidt acknowledged that it was an underwhelming first-leg performance but, with injury problems easing, he expects improvements in Israel. "We have a lot of players back so we can put out a different team," he said. "We will finish it."

Did you know?
PSV's Eran Zahavi scored 127 goals in 168 matches for Maccabi in all competitions, winning the 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15 Israeli Premier League titles (finishing as top scorer in the latter two campaigns) as well as the 2014/15 State Cup.

Partizan vs Sparta Praha (agg: 1-0)

Highlights: Sparta Praha 0-1 Partizan

A breakaway goal towards the end of the first leg gave Partizan a useful lead, but it might have been even better, with Sparta goalkeeper Dominik Holec denying Miloš Jojić a few minutes later. Still, they can feel a degree of confidence as they welcome their Czech rivals, who are without a win in six European away games (D1 L5) or a goal in their three most recent fixtures on their travels.

Sparta's midfield prodigy Adam Karabec, 18, was not impressed with his side's first-leg display against Partizan but is not despairing just yet. "Our chances are definitely alive," he explained. "These opponents can be be beaten. If we play like we did at the [start of the home leg], we can do it. They will have their fans behind them, but it can be done."

Did you know?
Sparta have visited Partizan once before; they took a 4-1 first-leg lead into their European Cup quarter-final decider in Belgrade on 9 March 1966 but lost 5-0.

PAOK vs Midtjylland (agg: 0-1)

Highlights: Midtjylland 1-0 PAOK

Midtjylland carry a slender one-goal advantage into this reverse fixture in Greece thanks to Joel Andersson's well-taken early strike in Herning – their first competitive fixture since Denmark's winter break began on 12 December. PAOK struggled to threaten Midtjylland's goal during that first leg but can take strength from a ten-game unbeaten streak in Salonika that stretches back to November.

"We have a good result and we look strong, but we have to build on that," Midtjylland captain Erik Sviatchenko said. "Although we have a good starting point, it will demand a lot of effort away from home, where we'll come under a lot of pressure from their fans, who are quite passionate. But we like to play under those conditions so we look forward to that."

Did you know?
Midtjylland kept clean sheets in their two most recent UEFA away fixtures (W1 D1) but conceded three goals in each of their two European games outside Denmark before that.

Vitesse vs Rapid Wien (agg: 1-2)

Highlights: Rapid Wien 2-1 Vitesse

Vitesse managed to spurn a chance and concede a goal in the first minute of the first leg against Rapid Wien, but coach Thomas Letsch felt a fifth successive defeat in all competitions was harsh on his side. His frustration was compounded by a booking for goalscorer Loïs Openda, who will now be suspended for the Arnhem leg. "That is very stupid of him," the coach snarled. "He is very important to us."

Considering that they were 2-0 up within 16 minutes, Rapid might have been a little dismayed by the 2-1 result at full time, yet they could also count their blessings after being reduced to ten men in the second half. "It's a shame that we conceded, but we're happy to take the win," said goalkeeper Paul Gartler. How much a one-goal lead will be worth in Arnhem remains to be seen.

Did you know?
Vitesse have lost only one of their five European games at the GelreDome this season and famously beat Tottenham 1-0 at home in the group stage.

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