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What to look out for on UEFA Europa Conference League Matchday 1

We pick out some of the key storylines ahead of the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage openers.

KÍ Klaksvik's Odmar Færø, Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins and Čukarički's Nikola Stanković
KÍ Klaksvik's Odmar Færø, Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins and Čukarički's Nikola Stanković

UEFA Europa Conference League Matchday 1 promises to be a journey of discovery, with three associations and five clubs making their group stage debuts.

In this piece presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the opening group stage games. Remember: Every mission matters.

Conference League Ones to Watch in 2023/24

Wednesday 20 September

LOSC Lille 2-0 Olimpija Ljubljana

Thursday 21 September

Legia Warszawa vs Aston Villa (18:45)
Zrinjski vs AZ Alkmaar (18:45)
Genk vs Fiorentina (18:45)
Ferencváros vs Čukarički (18:45)
Frankfurt vs Aberdeen (18:45)
HJK Helsinki vs PAOK (18:45)
Ludogorets vs Spartak Trnava (18:45)
Fenerbahçe vs Nordsjælland (18:45)
Slovan Bratislava vs KÍ Klaksvík (21:00)
Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs Breidablik (21:00)
Zorya Luhansk vs Gent (21:00)
Viktoria Plzeň vs Ballkani (21:00)
Dinamo Zagreb vs Astana (21:00)
Club Brugge vs Beşiktaş (21:00)
Lugano vs Bodø/Glimt (21:00)

All kick-off times CET

How qualifying for the knockouts works

The eight group winners automatically go through to the last 16. Additional knockout round play-offs will then be played before the round of 16, pitching the eight group runners-up against the third-ranked teams from the UEFA Europa League groups.

KÍ Klaksvik fairytale continues

After battling to the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League and only narrowly losing their UEFA Europa League play-off to Sheriff Tiraspol, Faroe Islands outfit KÍ Klaksvik will feel an immense amount of pride as they become the first team from the self-governing nation – whose population is just 54,000 – to participate in a UEFA group stage.

This emerging young side have already done amazingly well to get this far, making headline news around the world, and they will no doubt be keen to seize their opportunity when they play their first match away at Slovakian champions Slovan Bratislava. As their coach Magne Hoseth said: "We're writing history, but we're not done writing yet."

KÍ Klaksvik beat Häcken on penalties in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
KÍ Klaksvik beat Häcken on penalties in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying roundTT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

Excitement for debutants

KÍ aren't the only newcomers, though. Iceland and Bosnia and Herzegovina will also have a representative at a UEFA group stage for the very first time in Breidablik and Zrinjski respectively, while Čukarički of Serbia and Olimpija Ljubljana of Slovenia will make their bows as well. In total, 28 different countries are represented in the group stage.

The vast number of fresh faces at the tournament just goes to highlight its inclusive nature, and their participation will only serve to inspire clubs of a similar size. "Honestly, I can't wait for these matches," said Čukarički coach Igor Matić. "These will be big challenges for us and we must look at it in a positive way."

Villa excited to have 'European nights back'

Villa return to Europe

For the first time in 13 years, 1981/82 European Cup winners Aston Villa will be playing matches on the continent. The English Premier League side will be confident of progressing deep into the tournament, especially given the pedigree of their coach Unai Emery, who won the Europa League three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal.

"Playing in Europe has always given me a lot as a coach, and I am so grateful for the possibility," said Emery, whose side begin their campaign with a trip to Legia Warszawa. "Every day I go to the training ground I see the 1982 European Cup. It is good to remember it. This is the history of Aston Villa and it is amazing. We want to write a new history now and hopefully we can enjoy and feel something important here."

Unai Emery has won the UEFA Europa League on four occasions
Unai Emery has won the UEFA Europa League on four occasionsGetty Images

When are the remaining Europa Conference League group stage games?

Matchday 2: 5 October 2023
Matchday 3: 26 October 2023
Matchday 4: 9 November 2023
Matchday 5: 30 November 2023
Matchday 6: 14 December 2023

Further ahead

• Two clubs with an impressive European record face off on Matchday 2 when last season's Europa Conference League semi-finalists AZ Alkmaar host ex-European Cup semi-finalists Legia.

• There is guaranteed to be a fantastic atmosphere when Aberdeen play HJK in Group G on 5 October. The Scottish side are featuring in their first group stage since the UEFA Cup in 2007/08, where they eventually lost to German giants Bayern in the round of 32.

• Fiorentina will be desperate to go one better after losing last season's Europa Conference League final to West Ham. Their match-up against Hungarian champions Ferencváros looks a particularly intriguing one.

Where is the 2024 UEFA Europa Conference League final being played?


The 2023/24 UEFA Europa Conference League season is set to conclude at the Agia Sofia Stadium in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday 29 May 2024.

Opened in September 2022, the new stadium stands on the site of the Nikos Goumas Stadium, which had been home to AEK Athens since 1930 but sustained serious damage during an earthquake in 1999. With a capacity of over 30,000, the new stadium in the north-western suburb of Nea Filadelfia stages Greece international home games as well as AEK matches.

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