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UEFA Europa League: What to look out for in the round of 16 first legs

Get a taste of the action to come as the UEFA Europa League round of 16 gets under way.

Alfredo Morelos celebrates a goal for Rangers
Alfredo Morelos celebrates a goal for Rangers SNS Group via Getty Images

The UEFA Europa League is reaching its business end with plenty of European thoroughbreds, and a few dark horses, still in the running.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car presents UEFA.com's guide to the stand-out stories.

Revitalised Rangers angling for something big

Highlights: Dortmund 2-4 Rangers
Highlights: Dortmund 2-4 Rangers

Passion is also something of a hallmark of Rangers, with the Glasgow side eager to continue their European adventure as they welcome Crvena zvezda. Following the departure of Steven Gerrard for Aston Villa, the club turned to former midfielder Giovanni van Bronckhorst to take them forward. The Dutchman is facing a tough battle with Celtic as the Light Blues bid to retain the Scottish title, but European success feels like a real possibility after their success against Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16, a 4-2 win in Germany preceding a 2-2 home draw.

"If you can beat Dortmund and get a good result at home, then it has to give you confidence," said the former Barcelona player. "We are facing tough opposition in the next round so for us it's a big moment to challenge ourselves against the best and make sure we get some good performances again." Losing finalists in this competition in 2007/08, Rangers' only major European title remains the European Cup Winners' Cup, which they won in Barcelona in 1972. Fifty years on, is it their time to shine again?

Jordi Alba reaching his century

Highlights: Napoli 2-4 Barcelona
Highlights: Napoli 2-4 Barcelona

Galatasaray's visit to Barcelona has a UEFA Champions League feel about it, and it could be a significant occasion for one of the Camp Nou's modern favourites, with Jordi Alba in line to make his 100th UEFA club competition appearance. The 32-year-old once said his main purpose was to get the ball to Lionel Messi, but he has shown plenty of class since his one-time target left for Paris.

Coach Xavi Hernández has been asking his senior players to take more responsibility, saying: "They have to lead the team. We will give them power in the dressing room. They will have to pull the cart at the important moments." Alba will look to do that against Galatasaray, and maybe pick out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has hit 26 UEFA Europa League goals in his career so far and needs just seven more to join Porto and Atlético great Radamel Falcao as the competition's all-time top scorer.

No away goals rule

Following the recommendation of the UEFA Club Competitions Committee and the UEFA Women's Football Committee, the UEFA Executive Committee approved in June a proposal to remove the so-called away goals rule from all UEFA club competitions.

With the decision to remove this rule, ties in which the two teams score the same number of goals over the two legs are no longer decided on the number of goals scored away but by two 15-minute periods of extra time and, if necessary, a penalty shoot-out.

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Key dates

Seville's Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán will stage the final
Seville's Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán will stage the finalGetty Images

Knockout stage
10 & 17 March: Round of 16
18 March: Quarter-final & semi-final draws
7 & 14 April: Quarter-finals
28 April & 5 May: Semi-finals
18 May: Final (Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán, Seville)

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