Like the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League has a playoff round for clubs attempting to qualify for the group stage. Unlike the Champions League, the Europa League's playoff round features lots of teams that even hardcore followers of European football have never even heard of.
This year's playoff round also features some good matchups between teams that probably should not have been matched up against each other. Anzhi Makhachkala and AZ Alkmaar, both of whom would be favorites to make the knockout stages if they got through to the group stage, have to go through each other. The same can be said about Stuttgart and Dinamo Moscow.
Then, there are the awesome teams that you'll never hear from again. APOEL Nicosia should probably dispatch of Neftchi Baku of Azerbaijan. Don't expect to see too much more of Luxembourg's F91 Dudelange, or Georgia's Dila Gori. And congratulations to Moldova's FC Sheriff, who somehow get here every year.
Schedule (all times ET)
Stuttgart vs. Dinamo Moscow - 12:15 p.m.
Anzhi Makhachkala vs. AZ Alkmaar - 12 p.m.
Neftchi Baku vs. APOEL Nicosia - 12 p.m
Tromso vs. Partizan Belgrade - 12:30 p.m.
FK Ekranas vs. Steaua Bucharest - 12:30 p.m.
AIK vs. CSKA Moscow - 1 p.m.
Atromitos vs. Newcastle United - 1 p.m.
Legia Warsaw vs. Rosenborg - 1 p.m.
Liberec vs. Dnipro - 1 p.m.
Molde vs. Heerenveen - 1 p.m.
FC Sheriff vs. Marseille - 1 p.m.
Bursaspor vs. FC Twente - 1:30 p.m.
Dinamo Bucharest vs. Metalist Kharkiv - 1:30 p.m.
Lucerne vs. Racing Genk - 1:30 p.m.
F91 Dudelange vs. Hapoel Tel-Aviv - 2 p.m.
Feyenoord vs. Sparta Prague - 2 p.m.
Trabzonspor vs. Videoton FC - 2 p.m.
FC Midjytlland vs. BSC Young Boys - 2:15 p.m.
Debrecen vs. Club Brugge - 2:30 p.m.
KSC Lokeren vs. Viktoria Plzen - 2:30 p.m.
PAOK vs. Rapid Vienna - 2:30 p.m.
Crvena Zvezda vs. Bordeaux - 2:45 p.m.
FC Vaslui vs. Inter Milan - 2:45 p.m.
Heart of Midlothian vs. Liverpool - 2:45 p.m.
Motherwell vs. Levante - 2:45 p.m.
Slask Wroclaw vs. Hannover 96 - 2:45 p.m.
AC Horsens vs. Sporting Lisbon - 3 p.m.
Athletic Bilbao vs. HJK - 3 p.m.
Maritimo vs. Dila Gori - 3 p.m.
Mura vs. Lazio - 3 p.m.
Zeta vs. PSV Eindhoven - 3 p.m.