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Europa League qualifying: how it worked

The ten play-offs have concluded with Celtic, Rangers and Galatasaray bound for the group stage.

James Forrest celebrates a play-off goal for Celtic
James Forrest celebrates a play-off goal for Celtic Getty Images

The UEFA Europa League is undergoing a major revamp in 2021/22. The group stage has been reduced from 48 to 32 teams and there will be additional knockout round play-offs prior to the round of 16.

The road to the group stage is also much changed, featuring eight third qualifying round ties and ten in the play-offs. The qualifying process started later than previously, on 3 August, and involved sides from the top-15-ranked associations (predominantly cup winners) and teams transferring from the UEFA Champions League.

Play-offs winners progress to the 32-team group stage alongside the ten clubs parachuted from the UEFA Champions League and 12 automatic qualifiers. Sides defeated in the UEFA Europa League play-offs transfer to the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage.

Full season calendar

Play-offs

Second legs

Thursday 26 August
Alashkert (ARM) 0-0 Rangers (SCO), agg: 0-1
HJK Helsinki (FIN) 2-5 Fenerbahçe (TUR), agg: 2-6
Zorya Luhansk (UKR) 2-3 Rapid Wien (AUT), agg: 4-6
Galatasaray (TUR) 2-1 Randers (DEN), agg: 3-2
AZ Alkmaar (NED) 2-1 Celtic (SCO), agg: 2-3

CFR Cluj (ROU) 1-2 Crvena zvezda (SRB), agg: 1-6 
Slovan Bratislava (SVK) 2-2 Olympiacos (GRE), agg: 2-5
Legia Warszawa (POL) 2-1 Slavia Praha (CZE), agg: 4-3 
Royal Antwerp (BEL) 2-0 Omonoia (CYP), aet, agg: 4-4, Antwerp win 3-2 on pens
Sturm Graz (AUT) 2-0 Mura (SVN), agg: 5-1

First legs

Thursday 19 August
Slavia Praha (CZE) 2-2 Legia Warszawa (POL) 
Omonoia (CYP) 4-2 Royal Antwerp (BEL) 
Randers (DEN) 1-1 Galatasaray (TUR)
Mura (SVN) 1-3 Sturm Graz (AUT)
Fenerbahçe (TUR) 1-0 HJK Helsinki (FIN)
 
Rangers (SCO) 1-0 Alashkert (ARM) 
Olympiacos (GRE) 3-0 Slovan Bratislava (SVK)
Rapid Wien (AUT) 3-0 Zorya Luhansk (UKR)

Celtic defeated AZ Alkmaar 2-0 in their first leg
Celtic defeated AZ Alkmaar 2-0 in their first legGetty Images

Wednesday 18 August
Celtic (SCO) 2-0 AZ Alkmaar (NED)

Tuesday 17 August
Crvena zvezda (SRB) 4-0 CFR Cluj (ROU) 

The ten winners advanced to the UEFA Europa League group stage (draw on 27 August), where 16 of the 32 teams are already known. Defeated teams enter the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage.

No more away goals rule

There has been a rule change for 2021/22: Ties level after the second leg will go to extra time and a penalty shoot-out if required, irrespective of the number of away goals a team has scored.

Top ten Europa League goals of 2020/21
Top ten Europa League goals of 2020/21


Third qualifying round

Second legs

Thursday 12 August
Alashkert (ARM) 3-2 Kairat Almaty (KAZ), aet, agg: 3-2
HJK Helsinki (FIN) 3-0 Neftçi (AZE), agg: 5-2
Anorthosis Famagusta (CYP) 2-1 Rapid Wien (AUT), agg: 2-4
Žalgiris Vilnius (LTU) 0-1 Mura (SVN): agg: 0-1
St Johnstone (SCO) 2-4 Galatasaray (TUR), agg: 3-5
Celtic (SCO) 3-0 Jablonec (CZE), agg: 7-2

Tuesday 10 August
Flora Tallinn (EST) 2-1 Omonoia (CYP), aet, agg: 2-2, Omonoia win 5-4 on pens
Slovan Bratislava (SVK) 1-1 Lincoln Red Imps (GIB), agg: 4-2

The eight winning teams progressed to the play-offs. Defeated sides transfer to the UEFA Europa Conference League play-offs.

First legs

Thursday 5 August
Omonoia (CYP) 1-0 Flora Tallinn (EST)
Mura (SVN) 0-0 Žalgiris Vilnius (LTU)
Kairat Almaty (KAZ) 0-0 Alashkert (ARM)
Lincoln Red Imps (GIB) 1-3 Slovan Bratislava (SVK)
Jablonec (CZE) 2-4 Celtic (SCO)

Rapid Wien (AUT) 3-0 Anorthosis Famagusta (CYP)
Galatasaray (TUR) 1-1 St Johnstone (SCO)

Tuesday 3 August
Neftçi (AZE) 2-2 HJK Helsinki (FIN)