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What to look out for in the UEFA Europa Conference League round of 16

West Ham travel to Cyprus for anything but a holiday, Fiorentina build a head of steam and are goals guaranteed?

West Ham's Declan Rice, Villarreal's Álex Baena and Fiorentina's Luka Jović
West Ham's Declan Rice, Villarreal's Álex Baena and Fiorentina's Luka Jović

We are into the business end of the UEFA Europa Conference League, with three ties now separating the hopefuls from a place in June's final in Prague. The group winners re-enter the fray in the last 16, beginning their knockout campaigns away to the eight knockout round play-off victors.

In this piece presented by Enterprise, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the round of 16.

Round of 16 fixtures: 7/9 & 15/16 March 2023
Lazio vs AZ Alkmaar (first leg: 1-2)
AEK Larnaca vs West Ham
Sheriff vs Nice
Anderlecht vs Villarreal
Fiorentina vs Sivasspor
Lech Poznań vs Djurgården
Basel vs Slovan Bratislava
Gent vs İstanbul Başakşehir

Conference League: Meet the last 16

What to look out for

West Ham travel to Cyprus
"It's a place I've been going to all my life for holidays, so I know it pretty well," said West Ham sporting director Mark Noble as he reflected on the last-16 draw. Manager David Moyes also made reference to Cyprus being a good destination for Hammers fans, but make no mistake: the club have only one thing in mind as they take on AEK Larnaca.

Having exited in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals last term, the English side are determined to go all the way this time around. If they pick up where they left off in a perfect group stage campaign, they'll be tough to stop, but AEK have recorded wins against Partizan, Ukraine's Dnipro-1 (three times!) and Dynamo Kyiv this season and will not be taken lightly.

West Ham's best Conference League group stage goals

Fiorentina fear factor
Fiorentina stumbled out of the blocks in the Europa Conference League, drawing at home to Latvia's RFS and suffering a bruising 3-0 loss at Turkish side İstanbul Başakşehir, but the Viola have been in fine tune ever since. Six games, six wins and 20 goals later, they are flying and possess the competition's leading scorer in Luka Jović.

The Italian outfit made light work of Braga in the knockout round play-offs and many predict a similar outcome in the last 16 against a Sivasspor team that have struggled for consistency all season. Yet there have been positive signs for the club from central Turkey in 2023, and in 37-year-old Mustapha Yatabaré they boast their own forward with a nose for goal.

Highlights: Braga 0-4 Fiorentina

Start as you mean to go on
The first legs 12 months ago ended in seven wins and a spectacular 4-4 draw between PSV Eindhoven and Copenhagen. All seven of those first-leg victors went on to complete the job a week later and book their place in the quarter-finals – proof that sometimes the early bird really does catch the worm and that there's no sense in holding back.

Will that trend be repeated in 2022/23? And will we get close to matching the faintly ridiculous 60 goals racked up across the eight ties last term? Villarreal, whose six group games featured 23 goals, could be ones to watch as they take on Anderlecht.

Where is the 2023 Europa Conference League final being played?

The Eden Aréna in Prague, Czechia, has been selected to host this season's Europa Conference League final on 7 June 2023.

The 2013 UEFA Super Cup took place at the Eden Aréna, with Bayern defeating Chelsea 5-4 on penalties following a 2-2 draw over 120 minutes, and a showpiece game also went the distance two years later in the 2015 Under-21 EURO final, Sweden seeing off Portugal 4-3 on spot kicks.