Illustration photo – Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo (left) scores a goal against Sherif Tiraspol in a Europa League match on October 27, 2022.
Prague – The knockout stage of the European Football League will be opened on Thursday by the match between Barcelona and Manchester United. Leverkusen with Czech strikers Adam Hložek and Patrik Schick will host Monaco. Fiorentina with another representative, Antonín Barák, will start the 2nd round of the European Conference League in Portugal against Braza.
Photo gallery: Football European League 2022/23
In autumn, Barcelona finished third in the “Pilsen” group of the Champions League, behind advancing Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. The Catalans are now in form, unbeaten in 16 competitive games and leading the incomplete Spanish league table by 11 points ahead of Real Madrid. United are also having a good time. The third team of the English league is mainly led by striker Marcus Rashford, who has scored 13 competitive goals in the last 15 duels.
“I like Barcelona's style. It will be two great matches and we are looking forward to them. we will set a clear plan to win,” said United coach Erik ten Hag. Nineteen-year-old goalkeeper Radek Vítek is also on the roster of the “Red Devils”.
“United are in form, The Hag is doing a great job. They have great players and it will be really hard to beat them,” said Barcelona coach Xavi, who as a player helped the Catalans defeat the Manchester side in the Champions League final in 2009 and 2011.
Leverkusen beat Hoffenheim 3:1 in the Bundesliga thanks to Hložek's goal. Schick missed Saturday's game due to stomach issues. However, he has already healed the lingering muscle injury and on Thursday he could play in a competitive match for the first time since the beginning of November. Monaco also managed the weekend general. The third team of the French league won over Paris St. Germain 3:1.
In the Europa League, Juventus will face Nantes in Turin. AS Rome will start the knockout phase in Salzburg, where twenty-year-old goalkeeper Adam Stejskal works. The second team of the German league, Union Berlin, will present itself at Ajax Amsterdam. FC Sevilla will take on PSV Eindhoven at home.
While Braga are third in the Portuguese league, Fiorentina are down to 14th in Serie A after picking up just one point from the last five rounds. In Sunday's 0:1 defeat against Juventus, Barák was absent due to health reasons, but he could start for the “Violets” in Portugal.
Bodö/Glimt, whose squad includes eighteen-year-old Czech defender Lucas Kubr, hosts Lech Poznaň in the Conference League. The Norwegian team have lost their last four cup matches and have not played a competitive game since November. Slovakian goalkeeper Dominik Holec from Sparta Prague has been visiting Poznań since January.
Progressors from the 2nd round will join the eight group winners who went directly to the round of 16 in the European Conference League in the fall.
Programme of the opening matches of the 2nd round of the Europa League:
18:45 FC Barcelona – Manchester United (Vítek), Shakhtar Donetsk – Rennes, Ajax Amsterdam – Union Berlin, Salzburg (Stejskal) – AS Rome,
21:00 Juventus Turin – Nantes, Sporting Lisbon – Midtjylland, Bayer Leverkusen (Hlozek, Schick) – AS Monaco, FC Sevilla – PSV Eindhoven.
Opening matches of the 2nd round of the European Conference League :
18:45 Karabakh – Gent, Trabzonspor – Basel, Bodö/Glimt (Kubr) – Lech Poznań, Braga – Fiorentina (Barák),
21:00 Lazio Rome – Cluj , AEK Larnaca – Dnipro, Sheriff Tiraspol – Partizan Belgrade, Ludogorets Razgrad – Anderlecht.