Europa Conference League: what is it? Format, how to watch Tottenham, knockout dates and odds

The inaugural group stage of the Europa Conference League officially kicks off on Thursday evening.

The tournament was launched by UEFA alongside the already existing Champions League and Europa League formats to give more clubs the chance to play in Europe.

Tottenham qualified by finishing seventh last season and traveled to France to face Rennes in their opener after beating Pacos de Ferreira 3-1 in the play-off round to secure their place in Group G. books.

Sportsmail outlines everything you need to know as the group stage kicks off.

The newly formed league’s group stages kick off TODAY, with the knockouts starting in March and the final in May

Tottenham qualified for the group stage with a 3-1 win over Pacos de Ferreira

Tottenham qualified for the group stage with a 3-1 win over Pacos de Ferreira

What exactly is the Europa Conference League?

First, a quick reminder of what the Europa Conference League actually is.

The format comes in as a new tournament, running alongside the already existing Champions League and Europa League competitions.

UEFA is determined to give more clubs the opportunity to play European football, which is why they have introduced the new format.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin shows off the brand new European trophy

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin shows off the brand new European trophy

“The new UEFA club competition makes UEFA club competitions more inclusive than ever before,” UEFA president Aleksandr Ceferin said of the tournament.

“There will be more matches for more clubs, with more associations represented in the group stage.”

How were the groups formed?

There were three ways teams qualified for the Europa Conference League group stage.

In total 17 came via the main path of the Europa Conference League, with a further 5 coming from the champions path. Another 10 joined after being eliminated from the Europa League play-offs.

The teams that dropped out of the Europa League play-offs were:

Alashkert FC (Armenia), HJK Helsinki (Finland), FC Zorya Luhansk (Ukraine), Randers FC (Denmark), AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands), CFR Cluj-Napoca (Romania), SK Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia), Omonia Nicosia (Cyprus ) ), Slavia Prague (Czech Republic) and NS Mura (Slovenia).

The groups were then determined by club coefficients, with all eight containing one team from each seeding pot.

At this stage of the competition, no team can play against another team from the same competition.

the groups

Group A: Maccabi Tel-Aviv, LASK, HJK Helsinki, Alashkert FC

Group B: Ghent, Partizan, Flora Tallinn, Anorthosis

Group C: Roma, FC Zorya Luhansk, CSKA-Sofia, Bodo/Glimt

Group D: AZ Alkmaar, CFR Cluj, Jablonec, Randers FC

Group E: Feyenoord, Maccabi Haifa, Slavia Prague, Union Berlin

Group F: Copenhagen, PAOK, SK Slovan Bratislava, Lincoln Red Imps

Group G: Tottenham, Stade Rennais, Vitesse, NS Mura

Group H: Basel, Qarabag, Kairat Almaty, Omonia FC

Jose Mourinho's Roma are one of Tottenham's rivals to win the Europa Conference League

Jose Mourinho’s Roma are one of Tottenham’s rivals to win the Europa Conference League

Who is eligible from England?

In England, it is the winner of the Carabao Cup who qualifies for the Europa Conference League.

That was as usual last season for Manchester City, but the Premier League win secured them their spot in the Champions League for another season – after their painful defeat in the final to Chelsea just a few months ago.

The tournament place was then passed to the next team that had not yet qualified for a European tournament, ie seventh place.

That was, of course, Tottenham last season.

Gareth Bale (center) scored a double in a final day 4-2 win over Leicester to give Tottenham seventh place and a spot in the Europa Conference League play-off round

Gareth Bale (center) scored a double in a final day 4-2 win over Leicester to give Tottenham seventh place and a spot in the Europa Conference League play-off round

How to watch the Europa Conference League?

Each match will be available to watch on BT Sport during the group stage and through to the final, which subscribers can view on the website and app.

Tottenham’s opening group stage match against Rennes will be broadcast live on BT Sport 1.

Matches will be played at the same time as the Europa League, with kick-off at 5:45 PM and 8:00 PM UK time.

How qualifying for the knockouts works

As you can see above, eight groups of four teams will compete for a place in the knockout stages of the Europa Conference League.

However, only the team at the top of the group will automatically advance to the last 16, with a play-off round being played beforehand.

That will be contested by the runners-up in the group, alongside the teams that finished third in their Europa League groups.

The winners of the play-off rounds then join the group winners in the knockout stage.

When is the final and what’s up for grabs?

So, what’s the point of the tournament? Just like in the Europa League, where the winner earns a place in the Champions League, the winner of the Europa Conference League will also move up a level.

Simply put, should Tottenham win the Europa Conference League, they will earn a spot in next season’s Europa League group stage.

Provided they have not yet qualified for the Champions League, of course.

The final will be played on Wednesday 25 May at the Arena Kombetare in Tirana, Albania, with a capacity of 22,500 spectators.

What are the consequences for the Champions League and Europa League?

For the Champions League, nothing. But there are also ones for the Europa League, which have become smaller.

Instead of the usual 48 teams in the group stage, there are 32 this season. Furthermore, just like the Europa Conference League, there is now also an extra knockout phase between the groups and the round of 16 in the Europa League.

These will be battled by the runner-up in the Europa League group and those who have finished third in the Champions League groups.

Finally, the route to qualifying for the Europa League has now changed, with the Europa Conference League winner joining the 11 teams that have qualified through their domestic campaigns.

A further 10 teams will drop out of the Champions League qualifiers, and another 10 will come through the Europa League qualifiers.

What are the dates of the Europa Conference League?

Group Stage Europa Conference League
Match day Match date
Match 1 16 September
Match 2 September 30th
Match 3 21st of October
Match 4 the 4th of November
Match 5 November 25th
Match 6 Dec 9
Europa Conference League knockout stage
Round first leg second leg
Knockout playoffs February 17 February 24
Round of 16 10th of March 17th of March
Quarter-finals April 7 April 14
Semi finals April 28 5th of May
Last May 25 N/A

Who is the favorite to win the tournament?

Tottenham were in the Champions League final just over two years ago, so it’s no surprise that they are the favorites to win the cup in May.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side has a real shot at silverware in the tournament, but how seriously the Portuguese will take it remains to be seen.

Either way, they are the bookies’ favorite to triumph, with former boss Jose Mourinho closely following his new squad Roma.

Tottenham – 1/5

Rome – 11/2

Rennes 16/1

Feyenoord – 18/1

Ghent – 22/1

Alkmaar – 22/1

Union Berlin – 22/1

* Opportunities according to Betfair and correct at the time of publication.

Nuno Espirito Santo's Tottenham are the favorites to win the Europa Conference League

Nuno Espirito Santo’s Tottenham are the favorites to win the Europa Conference League

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