Europa Conference League round of 16 preview: predicting who will qualify in each tie
177 teams have competed in this season's Europa Conference League, but now just 16 remain. All of these clubs are dreaming of being in Prague for the final on 7 June, so who will make-up the quarter-final line-up? This article predicts who will come out on top in all eight ties, getting underway this week.
West Ham, Lazio, Fiorentina, Villarreal, Nice, Istanbul Basaksehir, Basel and Djurgarden to qualify- 18/1!
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March 07, 2023
5:45 pm GMT
AEK Larncaca vs West Ham United
After 126 days away, West Ham United will be back in Europa Conference League action.
So far, the Hammers boast a perfect record in this tournament, ousting Viborg in the play-offs, before winning all six group matches, against Anderlecht, FCSB and Silkeborg.
David Moyes' men reached the Europa League semi-finals last season, the club's longest continental adventure since 1976.
This time, in a lower-tier tournament, the Irons are hopeful of going all the way.
From here though, the level of opposition will increase substantially.
After coming through two qualifiers, AEK Larnaca featured in the Europa League this season, where their only victory came against Dynamo Kyiv.
Nevertheless, this was enough to see Jose Luis Oltra's side drop into this competition, where they ousted Dnipro-1 by a solitary goal.
That was the Green-yellows' first-ever knockout phase tie but, given that they're challenging for a first-ever Cypriot First Division title, this team clearly has quality.
Nevertheless, West Ham are overwhelming favourites to progress, so will be looking to return from Larnaca with a healthy lead.
Lazio vs AZ Alkmaar
Possibly the highest-quality tie of the round gets going on Tuesday evening in the Eternal City.
Having dropped down from the Europa League, Lazio are amongst the favourites to lift this trophy, a feat achieved by fierce rivals Roma just last season.
Having said that, Maurizio Sarri's side made hard work of ousting Cluj in the previous round, only edging through 1-0 on aggregate.
I Biancocelesti lifted the last-ever Cup Winners' Cup in 1999, and are very much aiming to add this silverware to their collection.
This though will not be easy, given that AZ have won ten of 12 European matches this season, scoring 30 goals.
The Cheeseheads comfortably topped their group in the autumn, so are on the cusp of a first European quarter-final for nine years.
Pascal Jansen's side are unbeaten in 23 European home matches, dating back six years, so if AZ can leave Stadio Olimpico with a decent result, they could be well-placed to cause an upset.
Fiorentina vs Sivasspor
Fiorentina sent out a message to the rest of the field in the first knockout round, suggesting that the Italian outfit should be feared in this competition.
Despite going into the tie as underdogs, I Viola demolished Braga 7-2 on aggregate, winning 4-0 in Portugal and then 3-2 in Florence.
That made it six successive Europa Conference League wins for Vincenzo Italiano who, given that they're 12th in Serie A, are going all in to win this competition.
Thus, Sivasspor are certainly underdogs, despite topping their group in November, above Cluj, Slavia Prague and Ballkani.
This will be the club's first-ever knockout phase tie, with Riza Calimbay's team just seeking to leave Italy not completely out of it on Thursday.
Anderlecht vs Villarreal
Having won the Europa League in 2021 and then reached the Champions League semi-finals last season, are Villarreal the favourites to win this tournament?
This would unquestionably be the case if Unai Emery hadn't left in October, with the Yellow Submarine not sailing as smoothly with Quique Setien steering the ship.
El Submarino Amarillo did win all six Europa Conference League matches under Emery, before failing to win both under Setien, albeit they were dead-rubber group games.
Nevertheless, even if this is a potentially tricky tie for Villarreal, most would expect them to reach the quarter-finals.
Anderlecht meantime needed a penalty shootout to beat Ludogorets in the first knockout round.
Amazingly, in the shootout in Brussels, the Belgian club converted all three of their spot-kicks, while the Bulgarian champions missed all of theirs.
Now the Purple and Whites, who've won five major European titles in their history, are on the cusp of just their second quarter-final appearance in 26 years.
Anderlecht have won just three of their last 14 matches against Spanish opposition, so Villarreal are highly likely to advance.
FC Sheriff Tiraspol vs Nice
Can Nice reach the quarter-finals of a European competition for the first time since 1960?
In the autumn, les Aiglons impressively topped their group, losing just once against Partizan, Koln and Slovacko.
Since then, Head Coach Lucien Favre has been sacked, with interim boss Didier Digard yet to taste defeat in any of his nine matches in charge.
In short, it would be a major shock if the Ligue 1 club did not come through this match-up.
FC Sheriff Tiraspol meanwhile became the first-ever Moldovan-based to win a knockout phase tie last month.
Despite losing the first leg 1-0 at home, Roberto Bordin overcame Partizan, thanks to an astonishing 3-1 victory in Belgrade.
The Divizia Nationala champions have now played 32 European matches since the start of last season, but are disadvantaged by the fact 'home' matches have to be played in Chisinau, rather than Transnistria.
Especially with the second leg to come on the French Riviera, Nice are likely to cruise through.
Gent vs Istanbul Basaksehir
Can Istanbul Basaksehir reach the quarter-finals of a UEFA competition for the very first time?
So far this season, Emre Belozoglu's team have lost just one of 12 Europa Conference League games, notably smashing Fiorentina 3-0 at home.
This helped the Grey Owls top their group, above I Viola, leaving them on the cusp of history.
As for Gent, they required a penalty shootout to oust Qarabag in the first knockout round, after both legs ended 1-0 to the home side.
De Buffalo's managed to convert all five spot-kicks, meaning one save from Davy Roef was enough to see them through.
Gent haven't reached the last eight in Europe since 1992, but have won both previous matches against opposition from Turkiye.
Of all eight ties, this one might just be the toughest to call.
Lech Poznan vs Djurgarden
Djurgardens IF were so impressive earlier this season, so can they pick up where they left off four months ago?
The Swedish side qualified for a UEFA group stage for the first time ever, thanks to wins over Rijeka, Sepsi OSK Sfantu Gheorghe and then APOEL last summer.
Once there, they took to it like a duck to water, topping their section with five wins and a draw, defeating both Gent and Molde home and away.
However, with the new Allsvenskan season not kicking off until 1 April, Kim Bergstrand and Thomas Lagerlof's team will certainly lack match practice.
The same cannot be said of Lech Poznan, who dispensed with BodoGlimt in the previous round, prevailing 1-0.
That was the Ekstraklasa champion's first-ever knockout phase victory, but John van den Brom's team will believe they can go even further.
With the second leg in Stockholm, Djurgarden need to leave Poland still in the tie.
Basel vs Slovan Bratislava
These two met in the group stages in the autumn, potentially giving us an indication as to how this tie will go.
Back then, SK Slovan Bratislava won 2-0 at St. Jakob-Park, before the two played out a thrilling 3-3 draw in Slovakia a fortnight later.
This helped Slovan top the group, above Basel on head-to-head, so do they come into this rematch as favourites?
The Sky Blues actually won the Cup Winners' Cup in 1969 but, amazingly, haven't won a knockout phase tie since then.
Basel, in contrast, have reached the Champions League knockouts three times in the last 11 years, as well as the Europa League semi-finals a decade ago.
This time last year, RotBlau were dumped out the Europa Conference League by Olympique Marseille, but are hopeful to go further this time round.
Basel, on paper, are favourites, but Slovan Bratislava did beat the Swiss giants just five months ago, so certainly cannot be written off.