Barcelona will be playing in the Europa League moving forward this season, the first time they have been in Europe’s secondary club competition since participating in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup.
With UEFA tweaking the format the Europa League this season, the Catalans enter at a new first knockout round that comes before the last 16 but has replaced the old last 32.
Barcelona and 15 other clubs will compete in this first knockout round, with eight teams progressing to meet the eight Europa League group winners in what will then be the last 16.
This is everything you need to know about the first knockout draw and which clubs are available for Barça to face…
Barcelona are in the Europa League as a result of finishing third in their Champions League group behind Bayern Munich and Benfica, consequently failing to reach the knockout stages in that competition.
It is the first time the club has been eliminated from a Champions League group stage since the 2000/01 season – two decades ago. Barça were beaten 3-0 home and away by Bayern Munich, which would have been salvageable but for taking only one point from two games against Benfica.
Barcelona and the seven other clubs dropping out of the Champions League are unseeded for the Europa League knockout draw and will each be paired with one of the eight seeded Europa League group winners. Country protection is in place, however, meaning Barça cannot be drawn against another Spanish team – that rules out facing Real Betis or Real Sociedad.
The six remaining clubs available for Xavi’s Barcelona to face are Braga, Dinamo Zagreb, Lazio, Napoli, Olympiacos and Rangers.
The two from Serie A are obvious teams to wish to avoid for now, while a tie against Scottish champions Rangers would mean reuniting with former left-back Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who succeeded Steven Gerrard in charge at Ibrox last month.
UEFA will make the draw for the Europa League knockout round on Monday 13 December 2021. It will start from 12pm in the UK (1pm CET) and will be live streamed on UEFA’s website and YouTube channel.
Heading into 2022, knockout round first leg ties will be played on Thursday 17 February, with the return legs to follow a week later on Thursday 24 February.
As they are not seeded, Barcelona will play the first leg at Camp Nou.
This is the first season in which the away goals rule has been scrapped, so extra-time is guaranteed if the aggregate score is level at the end of the second leg.