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

Lech need to beware a sleeping Djurgården, Lazio head to fortress AZ and Fiorentina return to the scene of a bitter defeat.

AZ's Milos Kerkez, Fiorentina's Luka Jović and Lech's Jesper Karlström
AZ's Milos Kerkez, Fiorentina's Luka Jović and Lech's Jesper Karlström

Places in the 2022/23 UEFA Europa Conference League quarter-finals are up for grabs in Thursday's round of 16 second legs, with everything still to play for after tight first instalments.

In this piece presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the deciders.

Round of 16 second leg fixtures: 15/16 March 2023
İstanbul Başakşehir 1-4 Gent (agg: 2-5)
Sivasspor vs Fiorentina (first leg 0-1)
Djurgården vs Lech Poznań (0-2)
Slovan Bratislava vs Basel (2-2)
West Ham vs AEK Larnaca (2-0)
AZ Alkmaar vs Lazio (2-1)
Nice vs Sheriff (1-0)
Villarreal vs Anderlecht (1-1)

What to look out for

Djurgården emerge from hibernation
A week is a long time in football, goes the well-worn phrase. But is it long enough for Djurgården? The Swedish side, whose league season does not begin until April, looked decidedly out of sorts as they attempted to grind through the gears at Lech. A goal in each half gave the Polish club a significant cushion and an eighth win in nine European home games this season.

Not bad, but Djurgården can better it with a 100% record on their own turf; they have also scored two or more goals in five of the six outings. Sweden midfielder Jesper Karlström, who spent six years at Djurgården before joining Lech in 2020, is well aware that this tie is far from over. "Today we were better," he said after the first leg. "But everyone knows next week will be a different game."

Highlights: Lech 2-0 Djurgården

Lazio enter AZ fortress
When AZ moved to their impressive, slick new stadium in 2006, there was some trepidation among fans. Their former Alkmaarderhout home had become a fortress, a compact stronghold in the city's woods, where the fans weren't so much on top of the action as in it. Surely the club from North Holland couldn't replicate that in their salubrious surrounds?

Well, perhaps they could. Lazio will turn out on Thursday knowing that overturning the 2-1 loss that coach Maurizio Sarri labelled "a freak result" will be far but easy. AZ have not lost in their last 23 European home games (W15 D8) and the fortress feeling is back. With Ciro Immobile again absent, do Lazio have the firepower to break down the walls?

Highlights: Lazio 1-2 AZ Alkmaar

Fiorentina return to Turkey
Fiorentina's European campaign looked over before it had really begun when a 3-0 loss at İstanbul Başakşehir in September left them languishing on a point from their first two games. However, rather than signalling the end of one chapter, it proved the beginning of a new one: the Viola return to Turkey having won seven out of seven since.

Fiorentina hold a 1-0 lead as they travel to face Sivasspor, and in truth they ought to be further ahead. "It will be a different match in Sivas," warned the Turkish side's coach, Rıza Çalımbay. His team sought to contain in Italy but still came close to a draw when Dimitrios Goutas headed against the post. Will the Italian outfit come to rue their first-leg misses or show how far they've come?

Highlights: Fiorentina 1-0 Sivasspor

Where is the 2023 Europa Conference League final being played?

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 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.