Two debutants meet in the round of 32 as Group K runners-up Wolves welcome Espanyol, winners of Group H, to Molineux.
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Two teams making their UEFA Europa League debut in 2019/20 have been paired together in the round of 32, with Group K runners-up Wolverhampton Wanderers hosting Group H winners Espanyol in the first leg at Molineux.
• Wolves actually finished up with more points in the group stage than Espanyol, 13 to 11, closing with a 4-0 home win against Beşiktaş. The Barcelona club's only defeat – a first in 26 European games against non-Spanish opposition – came on Matchday 6, 0-1 at home to eliminated CSKA Moskva after qualification had already been assured.
• This is the clubs' first meeting and Espanyol's maiden encounter with English opposition.
• Wolves' only previous matches against a Spanish club came in the 1959/60 European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-final against Espanyol's city rivals Barcelona and resulted in their heaviest UEFA competition defeats both away (0-4) and home (2-5).
• In their first season after promotion to the Premier League, Wolves finished seventh in 2018/19 to qualify for European competition for the first time since they lost in the 1980/81 UEFA Cup first round to PSV Eindhoven.
• Wolves began this UEFA Europa League campaign in late July and went on to win all six qualifying matches, knocking out Crusaders, Pyunik and, in the play-offs, Torino. They lost their opening group game, 0-1 at home to eventual section winners Braga, but took maximum points off Beşiktaş and Slovan Bratislava as well as drawing 3-3 in northern Portugal.
• The West Midlanders' best European experience by some distance came in the inaugural UEFA Cup of 1971/72, when they went all the way to the final before losing 3-2 on aggregate to English rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
• The Matchday 1 defeat by Braga ended a seven-game European winning streak at Molineux that had lasted since Wolves were beaten 2-1 by Spurs in the first leg of that 1972 UEFA Cup final. They have since prevailed with clean sheets against both Slovan (1-0) and Beşiktaş (4-0).
• Espanyol finished seventh in the 2018/19 Spanish Liga, edging out Athletic Club on the head-to-head rule to book a return to the European stage for the first time since their appearance in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup final, which they lost on penalties to Sevilla after a 2-2 draw in Glasgow.
• The club from Catalonia, who also lost the 1987/88 UEFA Cup final on spot kicks to Bayer Leverkusen, cruised through their first two qualifying ties this term, defeating Stjarnan and Luzern, before overcoming Zorya Luhansk in the play-offs. They topped Group H ahead of second-placed Ludogorets, beating the Bulgarian champions twice (1-0 a, 6-0 h) and CSKA away (2-0) as well as drawing both games against Ferencváros (1-1 h, 2-2 a).
• The Matchday 6 loss at home to CSKA ended Espanyol's run of 25 European games unbeaten against non-Spanish opposition (W19 D6) and was their first continental defeat in regulation play since Schalke beat them home (2-1) and away (3-0) in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup third round.
• Espanyol remain on a run of 13 European away games without defeat (W8 D5), keeping clean sheets in seven of those matches and conceding just nine goals over that stretch.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Leonardo Campana (Barcelona SC), Daniel Podence (Olympiacos), Renat Dadaşov
Out: Ryan Bennett (Leicester City, loan), Harry Burgoyne (Shrewsbury), Patrick Cutrone (Fiorentina, loan), Jesús Vallejo (end of loan)
In: Leandro Cabrera (Getafe), Raúl de Tomás (Benfica), Adrián Embarba (Rayo Vallecano)
Out: Sébastien Corchia (Sevilla, loan), Esteban Granero (Marbella), Lluís López (Tenerife, loan), Javier Puado
Links and trivia
• Three members of Espanyol's squad have been affiliated to English clubs – Facundo Ferreyra (Newcastle 2015), Jonathan Calleri (West Ham 2016/17) and Bernardo Espinosa (Middlesbrough 2016/17).
• Three Wolves players have operated in Spain – Jonny (Celta Vigo 2012–18), Adama Traoré (Barcelona 2013–14) and Raúl Jiménez (Atlético Madrid 2014/15).
• Espinosa and Traoré were Premier League team-mates at Middlesbrough in 2016/17.
• Substitute Diogo Jota's hat-trick for Wolves against Beşiktaş on Matchday 6, with goals in the 58th, 63rd and 69th minutes, was the third fastest in the history of the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final.
• Wolves and Espanyol were among six UEFA Europa League group stage debutants this season; only one of the others, LASK, made it through to the knockout phase, Ferencváros, Olexandriya and Wolfsberg all suffering elimination.
• A former goalkeeper who was in Portugal's UEFA EURO 2008 squad but never won a senior cap, Nuno Espírito Santo was mostly a back-up during his playing career but as a manager he is very much at the forefront, having emerged as a studious, progressive coach during spells at Valencia, Porto and, since May 2017, Wolves. He first made his mark by taking Portuguese provincial club Rio Ave to two cup finals and into Europe before shining in Spain during an 18-month stint at Mestalla. He led Wolves into the Premier League in his first season and into the UEFA Europa League in his second.
• Abelardo Fernández was named as Espanyol's third coach of the season on 27 December, succeeding David Gallego and Pablo Machín. A Spanish international defender with 54 caps, he also won 1992 Olympic gold in Barcelona, where he later shone for the local giants at the Camp Nou, winning the Spanish Liga and Copa del Rey twice plus the 1997 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. His coaching path, like his playing career, began at hometown team Sporting Gijón, where he was head coach from May 2014 to January 2017. He subsequently spent 18 months in charge of another former club, Alavés, before stepping down in May 2019.
UEFA Europa League knockout debut for VAR system
Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will be deployed in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase. The decision was taken by the UEFA Executive Committee last September, following the introduction of the system in several UEFA competitions in the 2018/19 campaign.