NYON: Three-time winners Liverpool were drawn to face Sparta Prague in the Europa League last 16 on Friday, while unbeaten Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen will take on Azeris Qarabag.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool will be strong favourites to reach the quarter-finals as they bid for a quadruple in the German’s final season before stepping down as manager.

The first leg will be played in the Czech capital on March 7, with Anfield hosting the return game a week later.

Leverkusen, led by Xabi Alonso, are unbeaten in 32 matches in all competitions this season, and will again face Qarabag, having already seen off the Azeri champions twice in the group stage.

Also renewing acquaintances will be last year’s Europa Conference League winners West Ham United and Freiburg, after David Moyes’ side’s brace of victories against the Bundesliga club in Group ‘A’.

“It’s kind of stupid that you can come back against your group opponents in the round-of-16,” said Freiburg captain Christian Guenter. “You could already tell that some of us were upset.”

Seven-time European champions AC Milan continue their bid to win a maiden Europa League title against Slavia Prague after their knock-out round play-off win over Stade Rennais.

Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers, losing finalists in 2022, take on Portuguese Primeira Liga pace-setters Benfica, still chasing a first European trophy since 1962.

Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion continue their first ever European adventure at last season’s runners-up Roma.

Full last-16 draw: Sparta Prague (CZE) v Liverpool (ENG) Marseille (FRA) v Villarreal (ESP) Roma (ITA) v Brighton (ENG) Benfica (POR) v Rangers (SCO) Freiburg (GER) v West Ham (ENG) Sporting Lisbon (POR) v Atalanta (ITA) AC Milan (ITA) v Slavia Prague (CZE) Qarabag (AZE) v Bayer Leverkusen (GER).

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2024

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