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Europa Conference League quarter-final first legs: Game-by-game preview

Get the lowdown on the four matches as the 2023/24 UEFA Europa Conference League quarter-finals kick off.

Fenerbahçe face Olympiacos in the quarter-finals
Fenerbahçe face Olympiacos in the quarter-finals Belga/AFP via Getty Images

The UEFA Europa Conference League is an adventure where everyone is invited to participate and dare to dream; we look ahead to the first legs of the four quarter-finals, with eight clubs packed with talent eager to seize their opportunity to shine.

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Thursday 11 April

Viktoria Plzeň vs Fiorentina

After steering Viktoria Plzeň to the Czech title in 2014/15, coach Miroslav Koubek honoured a promise by getting a tattoo to commemorate the achievement. Having returned to the club for a third spell in charge in 2023, the former goalkeeper has arguably pulled off an even bigger coup by leading his side to their first ever UEFA quarter-final. "I rank this achievement on the same level as our title in 2015," he said, adding with a smile: "But I won't get a tattoo."

A tie against last season's Europa Conference League runners-up Fiorentina looks like a big ask for Plzeň, but Vincenzo Italiano's team will know that they are up against serious competitors: Plzeň were the only side to win all six of their games in this season's group stage. The Viola had some good news recently as Dodô returned to action after a cruciate injury. "When you get to big matches, players like him are extra valuable," said Italiano. "We are competing in three competitions. We need a lot of players."

Did you know?
Plzeň have not conceded a goal in their last six European games and have kept clean sheets in all seven of their UEFA home matches this season (W5 D2).

Highlights: Viktoria Plzeň 0-0 Servette (3-1 pens)

Olympiacos vs Fenerbahçe

Olympiacos completed one of the greatest turnarounds in Europa Conference League history as they made up for a 4-1 loss against Maccabi Tel-Aviv with a 6-1 victory (after extra time) in their round of 16 decider. It was an unforgettable way for coach José Luis Mendilibar to celebrate his 63rd birthday, and Thrylos' spirits should be soaring as they welcome Fenerbahçe. "We will have to play smart," said the Spanish coach. "It's a match between two good teams and we want to get a good result so that we can qualify after the second leg."

Both clubs will have passionate support to call on at their home stadiums, so making the most of home advantage may well be a crucial element. Fenerbahçe captain Edin Džeko knows enough about European football to understand what this tie will entail. "The most important thing will be to do our best and get a good result at their place," said the Bosnian, who turned 38 in March. "I think [Olympiacos'] chances are 50-50 in their match-up with us. Every team at this level is good, so I see the chances as equal."

Did you know?
Olympiacos beat Fenerbahçe 3-0 away and 1-0 at home in the 2021/22 Europa League group stage, Giorgos Masouras scoring twice in Istanbul.

Highlights: Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-6 Olympiacos

What next?


First legs
Thursday 2 May
Aston Villa / LOSC Lille vs Olympiacos / Fenerbahçe (21:00 CET)
Viktoria Plzeň / Fiorentina vs Club Brugge / PAOK (21:00 CET)

Second legs
Thursday 9 May
Olympiacos / Fenerbahçe vs Aston Villa / LOSC Lille (21:00 CET)
*Club Brugge / PAOK vs Viktoria Plzeň / Fiorentina (21:00 CET)

*If Club Brugge qualify for the semi-finals, their home match will be scheduled on Wednesday 8 May 2024 at 18.45 CET.

Club Brugge vs PAOK

Club Brugge made it through to the last eight after overhauling a first-leg deficit against Molde, but results in their domestic league ultimately led to the departure of their Norwegian coach Ronny Deila. One of the first items on the agenda of his successor will be this encounter with PAOK, who also overcame the odds in the last 16, recovering from a 2-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb with a 5-1 victory at home.

Coach Răzvan Lucescu received a post-match visit from his father – celebrated Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu – after that game, the exhausted ex-Shakhtar boss saying: "It's been 50 years since I was a fan. I'm starting to understand how the fans feel." Răzvan for his part is keeping calm ahead of his team's next test. "We have to have respect for our opponents," said the 55-year-old. "No match is easy. Every opponent have their strengths."

Did you know?
Club Brugge and PAOK met in the 2010/11 Europa League group stage, but the ties were inconclusive: both ended 1-1.

Highlights: Club Brugge 3-0 Molde

Aston Villa vs Lille

Back in Europe after a 13-year absence, Aston Villa have rallied after losing their opening group stage match; now unbeaten in seven in the Europa Conference League (W5 D2), their 4-0 round of 16 decider success against Ajax was their most emphatic win yet. Unai Emery has been impressed by the way his charges have risen to the challenge. "It's a big challenge for us to keep being consistent," he said. "They have to be ready to play more than one match per week."

First-time UEFA quarter-finalists LOSC, meanwhile, have impressed consistently in France with a pleasing, aggressive style of play under Portuguese boss Paulo Fonseca (who was heavily linked to the Villa job a few years back). Sporting director Sylvain Armand knows beating Villa is a considerable task, but it is one the club welcomes. "We are here to play this type of match," he said. "It's down to us to gain experience, to take this step and continue growing."

Did you know?
Emery has won his last seven quarter-finals in UEFA club competition, with Villarreal, Sevilla, Arsenal and Valencia. He has only ever lost one last-eight tie: His first, with Valencia in the 2009/10 Europa League, going down on away goals against eventual winners Atlético de Madrid.

Highlights: Aston Villa 4-0 Ajax

What are the quarter-finals?

The round pits the eight winners from the Europa Conference League round of 16 against each other.

Ties are played over two legs and conclude on Thursday 18 April; the away goals rule has been abolished. The four winners advance to the semi-finals; the four losers will no longer be involved in 2023/24 European competition.

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