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Europa Conference League round of 16 first legs: Game-by-game preview

A rundown of all this week's Europa Conference League last-16 first legs.

Roma winger Stephan El Shaarawy and coach José Mourinho in training
Roma winger Stephan El Shaarawy and coach José Mourinho in training AS Roma via Getty Images

José Mourinho's Roma are heading for Arnhem, Rennes face a trip to Leicester while PSV Eindhoven's coach is increasingly impressed by the standard of the UEFA Europa Conference League as the round of 16 gets under way.

UEFA.com looks over all the first legs.

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Thursday 10 March

Vitesse vs Roma

Highlights: CSKA-Sofia 2-3 Roma
Highlights: CSKA-Sofia 2-3 Roma

Commentating on Ajax's capitulation to Tottenham in the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League semi-finals, José Mourinho accused the Amsterdammers of playing "like they were up against Vitesse in the Dutch league". His Roma side will hope not to get caught out in a similar fashion when they come to Arnhem, with home coach Thomas Letsch thrilled to have a chance of causing an upset. "Everyone at Vitesse thinks this is a wonderful pairing," he said. "Mourinho is one of the best coaches so it's nice to face him."

Did you know?
Vitesse met Roma's neighbours Lazio in the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League group stage; they lost 3-2 at home then drew 1-1 in Rome.

Marseille vs Basel

Highlights: Qarabağ 0-3 Marseille
Highlights: Qarabağ 0-3 Marseille

Coach Jorge Sampaoli had a glance at Basel in the course of his preparations for Marseille's knockout play-off against Qarabağ, since the Swiss side beat the Azerbaijani team in the group stage. "Basel are a team that plays very well, a young team," said the Argentinian. OM have some cause for comfort though; they are unbeaten in seven games against Swiss sides since a 2-0 loss at Sion in the 1994/95 UEFA Cup, while Basel have yet to win in five games in France (D2 L3).

Did you know?
The sides have never met competitively, but OM have beaten Basel twice in friendly games in Switzerland: 2-0 in 1951 and 4-0 in 1998.

Leicester vs Rennes

Highlights: Randers 1-3 Leicester
Highlights: Randers 1-3 Leicester

Having eased past Randers in the last round, Leicester have been presented with a more robust challenge. Rennes lost their three previous games in England without scoring prior to being awarded a 3-0 win against Tottenham for a UEFA Europa Conference League game that was cancelled – and later forfeited. Bruno Génésio has hope for his side, though. "We have every chance," said the Rennes coach. "We will have to continue to do what we love, work hard together, score goals and have fun. Above all, we must not have any regrets."

Did you know?
In 17 European home games to date Leicester have lost only twice (W10 D5), to Atlético de Madrid in the 1997/98 UEFA Cup and Slavia Praha in the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League round of 32.

Bodø/Glimt vs AZ Alkmaar

Highlights: Bodø/Glimt 6-1 Roma
Highlights: Bodø/Glimt 6-1 Roma

Son of Bodø/Glimt defender Andreas Evjen, midfielder Håkon Evjen represented his father's old club until joining AZ in 2020. Along with Norwegian club-mates Fredrik Midtsjø and Aslak Fonn Witry, he will be on familiar ground in the round of 16. "We will give him a warm welcome, but we may not be all that kind to him once the match starts," joked Bodø/Glimt coach Kjetil Knutsen. AZ have won both of their previous two-legged ties against Norwegian sides, but will be wary of a team that stunned Mourinho's Roma 6-1 in the autumn.

Did you know?
Bodø/Glimt have won their last seven European home games, six of them by a margin of two goals or more.

What next?

Winners of the ties earn a place in the quarter-final draw on 18 March. There will also be draws for the semi-finals and, for procedural purposes, the final which takes place at Tirana's National Arena on 25 May.

PSV Eindhoven vs Copenhagen

PSV vs Copenhagen: Watch 2009 strike
PSV vs Copenhagen: Watch 2009 strike

PSV boss Roger Schmidt is a Europa Conference League convert after having initial doubts. "The tournament has surprised me in a good way," he said after learning his side had been drawn against Copenhagen. "There are still a lot of strong teams in the last 16." Copenhagen boss Jess Thorup knows PSV are among the strongest, but is thrilled at the prospect of a big tie. "It is a big but wildly exciting challenge for us," he said. "We have to hit our absolute maximum in both legs if we are to get through."

Did you know?
The sides' only previous encounters were in the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League group stage, and ended with a 1-0 home win for PSV and a 1-1 draw in Denmark.

Slavia Praha vs LASK

Highlights: Slavia Praha 3-2 Fenerbahçe
Highlights: Slavia Praha 3-2 Fenerbahçe

A summer signing from LASK, midfielder Mads Emil Madsen may give Slavia the inside line on his old team-mates as the Austrian side make the 250km journey to Prague. "Facing the Czech champions is a great challenge for us," said LASK boss Andreas Wieland. "And because the distance isn't that great, the draw is ideal for our fans." Slavia boss Jindřich Trpišovský was less thrilled having wanted to take on Roma and Mourinho. "We just have to hope that us and Roma go through and then we will have another chance," he joked.

Did you know?
Slavia are unbeaten at home in Europe this season (W4 D2), but conceded twice in three of those games.

Partizan vs Feyenoord

Highlights: Partizan 2-1 Sparta Praha
Highlights: Partizan 2-1 Sparta Praha

Surprisingly, this is the first time these two European campaigners have met competitively, but Feyenoord boss Arne Slot played out two 2-2 draws against this Partizan side in the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League group stage when he was in charge of AZ Alkmaar. "A number of guys from that team are still there now," he said. Partizan's unbeaten season in Serbia ended with a derby defeat by Crvena zvezda on 27 February, but Aleksandar Stanojević's side – featuring Dutchman Queeny Menig – are still tough customers.

Did you know?
Partizan are unbeaten in their four European home games against Dutch sides (W3 D1), but have yet to keep a clean sheet against Dutch opponents, home or away.

PAOK vs Gent

Highlights: PAOK 2-1 Midtjylland (5-3 pens)
Highlights: PAOK 2-1 Midtjylland (5-3 pens)

Having taken Gent to the last 16 as group winners, Hein Vanhaezebrouck was happy enough to be paired with PAOK, explaining: "I am always happy with the draw." The Buffalos can expect a tough game in Salonika. "PAOK are a solid team," added the Gent coach, whose side have only once made it to a major UEFA quarter-final, losing 3-0 on aggregate to Ajax in the 1991/92 UEFA Cup. "If you eliminate Midtjylland, who are title challengers in Denmark, you must be strong. There are no easy opponents left in the Conference League."

Did you know?
PAOK boss Răzvan Lucescu has never faced Gent but his father has; Mircea Lucescu's Dynamo Kyiv beat the Buffalos 2-1 away and 3-0 at home in the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League play-offs.

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.