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Europa League knockout round play-off second legs: Game-by-game preview

A rundown of all this week's eight Europa League knockout round play-off second legs.

Dortmund's Axel Witsel in training at Ibrox ahead of the second leg against Rangers
Dortmund's Axel Witsel in training at Ibrox ahead of the second leg against Rangers DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Eight places remain up for grabs in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 as the knockout round play-off contenders prepare for action on Thursday. And remember, the away-goals rule has been abolished so what you see is what you get!

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Dinamo Zagreb vs Sevilla (first leg: 1-3)

Highlights: Sevilla 3-1 Dinamo Zagreb

Can Dinamo stop the Europa League specialists moving on towards yet another final? The 2022 showpiece is set for Sevilla's own Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán and last week's 3-1 win puts Julen Lopetegui's side firmly in the driving seat. But, as the Croatia champions' boss Željko Kopić pointed out, "the impression we made with our play was better than the final score". The talented Mislav Oršić scored once and came close to a sensational second, while Sevilla's Yassine Bounou made a remarkable double save too. The first goal will be key.

Did you know?
Sevilla are appearing in the Europa League knockout phase for the seventh time. They have lifted the trophy on four of their previous six appearances.

Olympiacos vs Atalanta (first leg: 1-2)

Highlights: Atalanta 2-1 Olympiacos

Gian Piero Gasperini admits Atalanta "took a while to recover" from falling behind last week, and his injury-ravaged side cannot afford to start on the back foot in Piraeus. Olympiacos have lost just once in 19 home games this season, winning 15, and Tiquinho Soares's fine strike in the first leg is testament to their quality. Atalanta have attacking pedigree too, but much of it is on the sidelines, a problem aggravated when Luis Muriel was forced off at half-time in the opener. Berat Djimsiti joked he could play up front after his first-leg heroics – perhaps not entirely a joke.

Did you know?
Djimsiti had never scored twice in a match before achieving the feat in the space of three minutes last week.

Real Sociedad vs Leipzig (first leg: 2-2)

Highlights: Leipzig 2-2 Real Sociedad

The Spanish side left Germany disappointed last week after twice letting their lead slip and will be even more desperate to bounce back following Sunday's 4-0 loss to Athletic in the Basque derby. There is cause for optimism too after a first-leg performance which Leipzig's Emil Forsberg conceded "gave us a hard time", particularly if Alexander Isak and Adnan Januzaj are able to return. For his part, Leipzig boss Domenico Tedesco admitted his side got lucky with their late penalty in the opener and may be tempted to take matters into his own hands with a more attacking line-up.

Did you know?
Christopher Nkunku has scored eight goals in seven European games this season – seven in the Champions League and one in the Europa League.

Lazio vs Porto (first leg: 1-2)

Highlights: Porto 2-1 Lazio

Sérgio Conceição takes his Porto side to face a club where he made more than 100 appearances across two trophy-rich spells. Porto have the advantage after Toni Martínez scored twice in the first leg, his first goals in European football vindicating his surprise selection in the starting line-up. Lazio will be without goalscorer Mattia Zaccagni as they look to win a knockout tie for the first time since 2018.

Did you know?
Porto have won their last two two-legged ties against Italian opposition, beating Juventus (2020/21) and Roma (2018/19) after extra time in the Champions League.

What next?

Winners of the ties earn a place in the round of 16 draw on Friday 25 February, where they will be unseeded.

The seeded teams are Crvena zvezda, Eintracht Frankfurt, Galatasaray, Leverkusen, Lyon, Monaco, Spartak Moskva and West Ham.

Napoli vs Barcelona (first leg: 1-1)

Highlights: Barcelona 1-1 Napoli

Sometimes players just try too hard. Though Ferran Torres struck from the penalty spot, he was visibly upset at full time after spurning several chances to give Barcelona a first-leg advantage; Xavi Hernández was quick to offer consolation and guidance. "He's ultra-demanding with himself," said the Barcelona coach. "I know the chances will begin to go in." The footballing gods often smile on a trier, so don't be surprised to see the 21-year-old play a decisive role at a stadium named after a man who poured everything into every performance: Diego Maradona.

Did you know?
Napoli are unbeaten in four previous home Europa League matches against Spanish clubs (W1 D3).

Betis vs Zenit (first leg: 3-2)

Highlights: Zenit 2-3 Betis

Zenit had not played a competitive fixture for two months before the first leg so it was little surprise they made a slow start. Betis capitalised, racing into a two-goal lead, but Zenit were level by the half-hour mark and, though they conceded again before the break, the Russian side came close to an equaliser when Daler Kuzyaev rattled the crossbar.

Did you know?
Joaquín became the oldest player to provide an assist in the Europa League in the first leg – at 40 years and 211 days, he beat the record of Molde’s Daniel Berg Hestad against Ajax in 2015 (40 years and 133 days).

Rangers vs Dortmund (first leg: 4-2)

Highlights: Dortmund 2-4 Rangers

Rangers pulled off perhaps the biggest result of the first legs, but Giovanni van Bronckhorst was eager to pour some cold water on the enthused reaction. "It is a great night, but only a great night," he warned, perhaps with one eye on Erling Haaland sat in the stands in Germany. The formidable Norwegian remains sidelined, but Van Bronckhorst's caution was validated by the sight of the Haaland-less Dortmund dismantling Mönchengladbach 6-0 on Sunday. The German side had a noticeable spring in their step when they arrived in Glasgow on Wednesday.

Did you know?
Dortmund have only won once in nine previous meetings with Rangers, and three of their four trips to Ibrox ended in defeat.

Braga vs Sheriff (first leg: 0-2)

Highlights: Sheriff 2-0 Braga

The good times roll on for Moldovan champions Sheriff. First Moldovan side to reach the Champions League group stage, first Moldovan side to beat Real Madrid, first Moldovan side to extend their European campaign into the new year and, last week, the first to win a knockout fixture. Adama Traore's late second goal – his seventh in Europe this season – felt like a decisive blow, but Braga have always relished the underdog tag and they have been as imposing at home this season as the cliff that forms one end of their stadium.

Did you know?
This is Sheriff's 16th European game this season – a club record and the joint most, alongside Dinamo Zagreb, of the 16 teams competing in the Europa League knockout round play-offs.

What are the knockout round play-offs?

The UEFA Europa League knockout round play-offs have been introduced for the first time this season. There are 16 teams involved: the eight runners-up from the UEFA Europa League group stage and the eight third-placed teams from the UEFA Champions League group stage.

The eight winners advance to the round of 16 draw on Friday 25 February (the eight group winners have already qualified for this); the eight play-off losers will no longer be involved in 2021/22 European competition.

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