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What to look out for in the UEFA Europa Conference League quarter-final first legs

Can a Greek side make it to the UEFA Europa Conference League final in Athens? Will a first-time quarter-finalist go all the way? Can anyone stop Aston Villa and Fiorentina? Get a handle on the last eight.

Olympiacos's Ayoub El Kaabi, Lille's Jonathan David and PAOK's Vieirinha
Olympiacos's Ayoub El Kaabi, Lille's Jonathan David and PAOK's Vieirinha

The UEFA Europa Conference League quarter-final line-up is a vibrant mix of sides with continental pedigree and hungry teams looking to make their names.

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

Thursday 11 April
Viktoria Plzeň vs Fiorentina (18:45 CET)
Olympiacos vs Fenerbahçe (18:45 CET)
Aston Villa vs LOSC Lille (21:00 CET)
Club Brugge vs PAOK (21:00 CET)

What happens next?

Quarter-final second legs: 18 April
Semi-finals: 2 and 9 May
Final: 29 May

Greek duo continue final push
After overcoming significant first-leg deficits in the round of 16, Olympiacos and PAOK have both made it to the quarter-finals, leaving the chance of a Greek team competing in the final at the AEK Arena in Athens very much on. No Greek club has made it to a UEFA final since Panathinaikos lost to Ajax in the 1971 European Cup final. What better time to scratch that 53-year itch.

Piraeus giants Olympiacos have had a tough season (current boss José Luis Mendilibar is their third coach since September) but they come into their game against Fenerbahçe with the wind very much in their European sails, and striker Ayoub El Kaabi in fine form. PAOK feel they have a slightly less difficult draw, their 38-year-old Portuguese captain Vieirinha alluding to his nation’s EURO 2004 final loss to Greece as he thanked draw guest Vassilios Tsiartas for pairing his side with Club Brugge. "I thank Vassilios for the good draw," he said. "Of course, I haven’t forgiven any of his team-mates for 2004, but for today I thank him."

Highlights: PAOK 5-1 Dinamo Zagreb

First time finish for Plzeň and LOSC?
The Europa Conference League is an opportunity for emerging talent to come to the fore; an exciting chance for clubs, players and fans to prove themselves on a whole new stage, and Viktoria Plzeň and LOSC Lille may be encapsulating that spirit to the greatest extent. Both sides have reached the last eight of a major UEFA competition for the first time.

Czech contenders Plzeň have a huge task against last season's Europa Conference League runners-up Fiorentina, but coach Miroslav Koubek knows his team will give it their all. "We have players here who have had great careers; we also have youngsters who are hungry. We have a great atmosphere in the cabin and they are a great bunch." Lille boss Paulo Fonseca, meanwhile, prides himself on his squad's willingness to take chances, and they continue to fight well above their budgetary weight in both France and Europe. Will they give Aston Villa a game? Can they ever.

Highlights: Sturm Graz 0-3 Lille

Villa and Viola vie for victory
In terms of European pedigree, Aston Villa and Fiorentina look like the biggest guns left in the Europa Conference League armoury. The Birmingham club have been absent from UEFA competition, but they were European Cup winners in 1982 (beating Bayern in the final in Rotterdam), while their Spanish manager Unai Emery famously won the Europa League in three successive campaigns as coach of Sevilla.

Fiorentina's biggest European nights arguably came in 1961 when they beat Rangers in the two-legged European Cup Winners' Cup final. Runners-up to West Ham in last season's Europa Conference League finals, the Viola have the unique (perhaps unwanted) distinction of having been on the losing side in the finals of every major UEFA knockout competition: European Cup/Champions League in 1957, Cup Winners' Cup in 1962, UEFA Cup/Europa League in 1990. However, history is no burden for Vincenzo Italiano's side. As the coach said: "We are happy and satisfied to be among the last eight this year. The quality of the competition continues to rise."

Highlights: Maccabi Haifa 3-4 Fiorentina

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 AEK Arena 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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