Time for the round of 16 in the UEL and Europa Conference League 2023/2024

The UEFA Europa League (UEL) and the UEFA Europa Conference League season 2023/2024 have now reached the round of 16 and yesterday the draw for these was completed. Here we go through the upcoming meetings, the favourites to win each tournament, the main contenders and outsiders, and also take a look at the top scorers so far.

Liverpool FC flag
Liverpool are the favourites to win UEFA Europa League

Europa League - round of 16 and favourites

The third placed from the Champions League entered the Europa League in the round of 16, which was completed on Thursday, and of these only Milan and Benfica managed to advance to the next round. Braga, Lens, Galatasaray, Young Boys, Shakhtar Donetsk and Feyenoord were all knocked out against runners-up from the group stage of the Europa League. In the round of 16, the teams that won their groups in the Europa League now step in, and there are many strong teams that are still in the tournament.

Favourites: Liverpool

Although there are many strong teams left, there is no doubt which team is the favourite to take home the Europa League title this season - Liverpool. One thing that speaks for Liverpool is the form. Despite problems with a lot of injuries, they have been going very strong in the Premier League lately. The other reason is of course the quality of the squad. What would possibly speak against them a bit is that they are very much involved in the race for the league title, and it is undoubtedly a higher priority to win the league than the Europa League.

In the round of 16, they have been given an easy draw as they take on Sparta Prague, and although Sparta Prague knocked out Galatasaray convincingly in the round of 16, this should be an easy game for Liverpool over two matches.

Main contender: Bayer Leverkusen

After Bayer Leverkusen won against Mainz in the Bundesliga yesterday, they have 33 consecutive competitive matches without a loss and thus beat the German record previously held by Bayern Munich of 32 consecutive unbeaten matches. This means that they are leading the Bundesliga convincingly, a full 11 points ahead of Bayern, even though they do have one match more played, and basically everything points to Leverkusen finally winning their first Bundesliga title ever.

They have also been playing very convincing in the group stage of the Europa League, winning all six games in their group with a goal difference of 19-3. Just like for Liverpool, it is obviously the domestic league title that matters the most but expect them to give Liverpool a tough match if (when) they clash with each other in this tournament. It is actually not entirely unreasonable that we may see a final in the Europa League between two newly crowned champions of their respective leagues.

In their round of 16, Leverkusen face Qarabag from Azerbaijan, who somewhat surprisingly knocked out Braga in the round of 16. Qarabag is, on paper anyway, clearly the weakest team left in the tournament and should reasonably be a mouthful for Leverkusen.


Ok, there is no question that logically, given quality and form, the winner of the tournament is either Liverpool or Bayer Leverkusen. But there is absolutely no shortage of strong outsiders who could very well go all the way. On the one hand, West Ham, last year's winner of the Europa Conference League, remains and so does last year's finalist in the Europa League, Roma, as well.

However, it is primarily Milan who should be seen as the main outsider. Milan is a team with high basic capacity but somehow it doesn't really feel like they have reached the high levels they reached last season. They are slipping in the league (that Inter has more or less already decided) and they went out of the group stage in the Champions League, although they are partly excused given the tough group they had. But Milan should not be underestimated and can absolutely challenge for the title.

Other outsiders are the two Portuguese and Lisbon clubs Benfica and Sporting. Neither team has played convincingly in the European Cups this season, but Portuguese teams traditionally often do well in the European Cups.

Who will be top scorer?

The top scorer list in the Europa League will of course always be a bit unfair and misleading as in practice, only the teams that played group games in the Europa League can get a golden boot winner. Because of that, players from Milan and Benfica obviously have no chance as they played their group stage matches in the Champions League, and thus have 4 to 6 matches less than the other teams. However, we must of course have a look at the current top scorers so far.

The leader right now is Marseille's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with 7 goals scored. Aubameyang is undeniably a goal scorer of rank, he has won the goalscoring league in both the Premier League and the Bundesliga over the years, and even if he is getting a little older, he still knows how to score goals. If Marseille advances from the round of 16 against Villareal, he could very well be top scorer winner in a European cup for the first time.

Brighton's João Pedro and Roma's Romelu Lukaku have both scored 6 goals each and the two teams meet in the round of 16, so one of these will be out of the game after the round of 16, but the one who advances is guaranteed to be in the race to become the top scorer as well.

Just behind these guys we find the Swedish striker Viktor Gyökeres. He has so far scored 5 goals and as he has both shown brilliant form all season in Sporting in both leagues and cups, he may very well stand as the winner of golden boot title in the end, that is if Sporting manages to get past Atalanta in the round of 16 of course.

The meetings in the round of 16

These are the matches we will see in the round of 16 in the Europa League season 2023/2024. The first matches are played on the 5th (Sporting Lisbon-Atalanta) and 7th March (others), and the second matches are played on 14th March.
  • Benfica - Rangers
  • Freiburg - West Ham
  • Marseille - Villarreal
  • Milan - Slavia Prague
  • Qarabag - Bayer Leverkusen
  • Roma - Brighton
  • Sporting Lisbon - Atalanta
  • Sparta Prague - Liverpool

Ollie Watkins, Aston Villa
Can Ollie Watkins bring his Aston Villa to a UEFA Europa Conference League title?

UEFA Europa Conference League - round of 16 and favourites

In the round of 16, the third placed in the groups from the Europa League entered the playoffs and met the second placed from the group stage of the Europa Conference League. Of all these UEL third placed teams, only Real Betis failed to advance to the round of 16, as they were surprisingly eliminated by Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb.

Favourites: Aston Villa

It is not as easy to find a favourite here as in the Europa League, but the choice is still quite simple in the end, and it is an English club here as well - Aston Villa. They have had some less impressive performances in the Premier League this season, but also some very impressive ones. Villa simply has a very high top level when they get everything right. They won your group in the Europa Conference League, even if they lost a few points, and although it is not impossible that they can have a couple of bad games and get kicked out long before the final, we still have to have Villa as favourites to win this tournament.

Main contender: Fiorentina

That the Italian team Fiorentina should be seen as the main contenders says, with all due respect to the teams remaining in this tournament, some about the low class of the teams still in the Europa Conference League. However, Fiorentina have done decently well in Serie A this season and are in eighth place there, and they did win their group stage without a loss. They face Maccabi Haifa in the round of 16, which shouldn't be a problem for Fiorentina to get past.


We had a hard time choosing between Fiorentina and the French team Lille as the main contenders, and thus Lille is seen as the main outsider. Lille has been a stable top team in Ligue 1 for several seasons now and is currently in fourth place in the league. They also won their group convincingly and they do have, among other things, the very talented Canadian striker Jonathan David in their squad.

Turkish Fenerbahce have been doing very well in the Turkish league this year and are in second place, only two points behind Galatasaray, and they won their group here. Now, however, they have a really tough round of 16 when they face the Belgian team Union St.-Gilloise. This Belgian team is actually a team that we rank as a dark horse in this tournament. They have been a top team in the Belgian league for several seasons now and are also in the top of the league this season by quite a margin. In other words, it is difficult to predict the winner of this round of 16 meeting, but whoever it is, they can definitely go far in the rest of the tournament.

The top scorers so far

Among the top scorers, there are currently four players with 5 goals. Among these four players that plays in teams that are still in this tournament are the veteran Eran Zahavi, playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv, and Dinamo Zagreb's Bruno Petkovic.

There are a bunch of players who have scored 4 goals that remain in the tournament, including Lille's Turk Yusuf Yazici. Other players from the favourite teams who have scored a few goals are Fenerbahce's Belgian Michy Batshuayi and Fiorentina's Luca Ranieri, who both have scored 3 goals. Top scorers for favourites Aston Villa are Ollie Watkins and John McGinn who both scored 2 goals in the tournament.

The meetings in the round of 16

These are the clashes we will see in the round of 16 in the Europa Conference League, where the first match is played on March 4th and the second on March 17th.
  • Ajax - Aston Villa
  • Dinamo Zagreb - PAOK Thessaloniki
  • Maccabi Haifa - Fiorentina
  • Molde - Club Brugge
  • Olympiakos - Maccabi Tel Aviv
  • Napkin - Viktoria Plzen
  • Sturm Graz - Lille
  • Union St.-Gilloise - Fenerbahce
Andrea Sugler has followed football his whole life and above all the Swedish national team. As Andrea lives in Stockholm, she sees most of the international matches on site, but has also been to most of the European Championships and World Cups in recent years when Sweden has participated, the first time already back in 1992 during the European Championship in Sweden. Andrea also likes to write about football and games, sometimes with successful results.