The Europa League begins their knockout stage with some pretty big teams playing

The Champions League gets all of the buzz, but the side door into that competition also resumes this week.

The Europa League starts its knockout phase today, and some big-name clubs will be looking to keep their chances of winning this tournament — and a spot in next season’s Champions League — alive.

These are two-legged ties, with the return matches set for next week. Here are some fixtures of interest:

Midtjylland vs. Manchester United — Wayne Rooney is set to miss this match because of a knee injury, joining Matteo Darmian and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson on the injury list. United is bringing several young players for this trip, and we may see more than one first-team debut.

There’s is plenty of first-choice talent on the traveling roster, however.

The Danes, currently sitting third in the Superliga table, will be looking to take advantage and put themselves in a good position for the return leg at Old Trafford. This is the deepest Midtjylland has ever advanced in a European competition.

Fiorentina vs. Tottenham Hotspur — Spurs face the age-old question: Should they go all out in this competition, or focus on winning the Premier League title. And where does the FA Cup run fit in?

These are the choices Mauricio Pochettino must make with a cup match with Crystal Palace looming on Sunday. Tottenham, in fact, has four matches on the schedule in the next 10 days. A little squad rotation has to be coming somewhere along the line.

The Italians are facing a similar dilemma, sitting third in the Serie A table. Fiorentina faces a league visit to Atalanta on Sunday, and may also have to make some tough choices in its lineup.

There’s also a bit of a revenge factor in play, as the Viola knocked Spurs out of this competition last season.

Augsburg vs. Liverpool — Talk about a stark contrast. Liverpool, with all of its European pedigree, meets a team that’s never faced an English team in a competitive match when it travels to Germany to meet Augsburg.

There’s no doubt the Reds and Jurgen Klopp will be taking this competition seriously, and we should see a near-first choice starting lineup this afternoon.

Augsburg sits 14th in the Bundesliga table, most recently falling 3-1 to Bayern Munich on Sunday.

Borussia Dortmund vs. FC PortoDortmund has never lost at home to a Portuguese side, but FC Porto will be looking to change that today.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could make his return from injury to boost the Germans, and he leads Dortmund with seven goals in this competition.

As for Porto, former Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas will be trying to keep a clean sheet to set his team up to advance in next week’s home match.

Europa League Round of 32


Fenerbahçe 2, Lokomotiv Moscow 0


Valencia vs. Rapid Wien

Fiorentina vs. Tottenham

Dortmund vs. Porto

Anderlecht vs. Olympiacos

Midtjylland vs. Manchester United, 1 p.m. ET, FS2

Augsburg vs. Liverpool, 3 p.m. ET, FS2

Sparta Prague vs. Krasnodar

Galatasaray vs. Lazio

Sion vs. Braga

Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Schalke

Marseille vs. Athletic Bilbao

Sevilla vs. Molde

Sporting vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Villarreal vs. Napoli

St-Étienne vs. Basel

About Randy Capps

South Carolina native, Fulham apologist, writer and sports fanatic.