With nearly 50 seasons played, the Europa League remains one of the EUFA’s most respected professional football institutions. The League is considered secondary to the EUFFA’s Champions league and the winners of the Europa League will automatically go on to compete in the Champions League tournament at the group stage.
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The league’s participants go through three stages of qualification, beginning with an EUFA seeded and unseeded selection process based on teams’ UEFA figures. The one caveat that exists is that two teams from the same association cannot be drawn against each other in the initial qualifying stage. Following the completion of the first round’s matches, the EUFA will draw the second round of qualifiers. The statistics of those match outcomes will culminate in a third round drawing.
The teams that qualify will then proceed to the playoff round, followed by the group stage. 48 teams are then divided into twelve groups of four, again under the caveat that two teams from the same association cannot be grouped together. The group stage is played as a home-and-away, round-robin format, in which all players in a group will face each other. Currently, Manchester United is the top ranked Europa League team and will have the opportunity to defend their status should they reach rank three in the Champions League group stage. Several clubs are making their group stage debut at this year’s Europa League, including Arsenal, Atalanta, Fastav Zlín, 1899 Hoffenheim, İstanbul Başakşehir, 1. FC Köln, Lugano, Milan, Östersund, Real Sociedad, Red Star Belgrade, Vardar and Vitesse.
The match format proceeds to the round of 32, where teams are grouped alongside eight third-place finishers from the Champions League. The top two finishing teams in each group will advance to the tournament’s knockout stage, resulting in twelve group winners and four third-place finishers from the Champions League making the grade. The tournament then proceeds to a round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and a final match to be played at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais in Décines-Charpieu on 16 May 2018.
The 2017-18 Europa League has had many exciting matches in its initial stages, with several teams aggregating eight or more points thus far, including Trenčín and Kairat, both accumulating 8 to 1 in points over their opponents, with Midtjylland taking Derry city in two matches at 6-1 and 4-1 for a 10-2 overall result, the highest aggregate during the first stage of the Europa League.
Ferencváros would go on to trounce first stage leader, Midtjylland in a 7-3 aggregate, while Mladá Boleslav, Panionios, and Maccabi Tel Aviv would go on to dominate the second stage with 5-2, 5-2, and 5-1 aggregates respectively. Trakai would join the five-point club by going into penalties against IFK Norrköping for a 5-3 aggregate.
Stage three saw more tumultuous play with Krasnodar leading the pack at 5–2 against Lyngby. Notably, Skënderbeu Korçë would face Mladá Boleslav in penalties with an end result of 4-2 in favour of Skënderbeu Korçë.
Milan dominated the play-off round with a 7-0 aggregate against Shkëndija, while Red Bull Salzburg came in a close second for top position against Viitorul Constanța with a 7-1 result.