Two of the world’s former top teams will battle it out for a place in Europe’s second-tier club competition.
Europa League playoff draw in brief:
- Barcelona v Manchester United
- Juventus v Nantes
- Sporting v Midtjylland
- Shakhtar Donetsk v Rennes
- Ajax v Union Berlin
- Bayer Leverkusen v Monaco
- Sevilla v PSV Eindhoven
- Salzburg v Roma
Barcelona probably never wanted to be in the Europa League.
But now the Catalan giants – once one of the biggest and most successful teams on the planet – face Manchester United, another formerly unbeatable global brand, just to stay in Europe’s second-tier club competition.
Relegated from the Champions League after finishing third in their group, Barca will take on United, whose failure last year to finish in the highest echelons of the English Premier League meant qualification for the Europa League instead of its more glamorous big brother.
The winner of the playoff will go through to the tournament’s last 16.
“The draw has given us the most difficult rival again, like in the Champions League group stage,” Barca manager Xavi Hernandez said after the draw on Monday. “Luck was not on our side. Manchester United are a great rival, a historic club – the worst that we could wish for.”
Another page of history
Barcelona and United have history, with Xavi’s men in blue and red meeting the 2017 Europa League winners twice in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals, winning on both occasions, while United lost both legs of the 2018-19 European Cup quarter-final meeting between the pair.
United finished second in their Europa League group this season on goal difference behind Real Sociedad.
The league’s eight group runners-up face eight third-placed sides from the Champions League group stages, with the winners of the two-legged playoffs progressing to the last 16.
Other highlights of the knock-out round playoff draw include Spain’s Sevilla – six-time Europa League winners – taking on Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in what is likely to be another crackling matchup.
Elsewhere, Serie A’s Juventus take on Ligue 1 team Nantes, while Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma face RB Salzburg.
The first legs of the ties will be played on February 16, with the return match a week later on February 23.
The final will be played on May 31 at Budapest’s Puskas Arena.