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

The inaugural Europa Conference League group stage officially gets underway on Thursday evening.

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

Tottenham qualified by finishing in seventh place last season, and travel to France to take on Rennes in their opener, having beaten Pacos de Ferreira 3-1 on aggregate in the play-off round to book their spot in Group G.  

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Sportsmail outlines everything you need to know as the group stages get underway. 

The group stages of the newly-formed competition start TODAY, with the knockouts getting underway in March and the final in May 

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

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Just what is the Europa Conference League?   

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

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

UEFA are 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

‘The new UEFA club competition makes UEFA’s 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 stages.’    

How were the groups formed?  

There were three methods in which teams qualified for the Europa Conference League group stage. 

A total of 17 came through the Europa Conference League main path, with another 5 from the champions path. A further 10 joined having been eliminated from the Europa League play-offs.   

The teams that dropped from 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 in the competition, no team can play another from the same league.   

The groups  

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

Group B: Gent, 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, Omonoia FC

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

Who qualifies from England? 

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

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

The place in the tournament was then passed down to the next team who had not already qualified for a European tournament, or in other words seventh place.

That was, of course, Tottenham last season.

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

How to watch the Europa Conference League?

Every game throughout the group stages and to the final with be available to watch on BT Sport, which subscribers can watch on the website and app. 

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

The matches will be played at the same time as the Europa League, with kick-offs at 5.45pm and 8pm UK time.  

How qualifying for the knockouts work

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

However, only the team who tops the group will automatically progress to the last 16, while a play-off round will be played beforehand. 

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

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

When is the final and what is up for grabs? 

So, what’s the point of the tournament? Similarly to the Europa League, where the winner earns a spot in the Champions League, the winner of the Europa Conference League will also move up a tier. 

To put it simply, should Tottenham win the Europa Conference League, they will earn a spot in the group stages of the following season’s Europa League. 

That is provided they have not already qualified for the Champions League, of course. 

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

What are the impacts on the Champions League and Europa League?

For the Champions League, nothing. But there are some for the Europa League, which has reduced in size.

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

These will be competed by the Europa League group runners-up and those who finished third in the Champions League groups.

Finally, the route to Europa League qualification has now changed, with the winner of the Europa Conference League joining the 11 teams who qualified through their domestic campaigns.

A further 10 teams will drop from the Champions League qualifiers, with another 10 coming through Europa League qualification.

What are the Europa Conference League dates? Europa Conference League Group StageMatch dayMatch date Match 1 September 16  Match 2September 30 Match 3 October 21 Match 4 November 4 Match 5 November 25 Match 6 December 9  Europa Conference League Knockout Stage  Round First Leg  Second Leg Knockout play-offs February 17February 24  Round of 16 March 10 March 17 Quarter-finals April 7 April 14 Semi-finals April 28 May 5 Final May 25 N/A  Who is the favourite to win the tournament? 

Tottenham were in the Champions League final just over two years ago, so it comes as no surprise that they are the favourites to lift the cup in May. 

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have a genuine opportunity for silverware in the tournament, though how seriously the Portuguese will take it remains to be seen. 

Regardless, they are favoured among the bookies to prevail, with former boss Jose Mourinho close behind with his new side Roma. 

Tottenham – 5/1

Roma – 11/2

Rennes 16/1

Feyenoord – 18/1

Gent – 22/1

Az Alkmaar – 22/1

Union Berlin – 22/1 

*Odds as per Betfair and correct at the time of publication.  

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

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