Why are Liverpool, West Ham, Rangers and Brighton not playing in Europa League tonight? | Football | Sport

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All four British teams qualified from their groups as winners and have therefore bypassed the knockout play-offs which will take place on February 15 and 22. Teams will play two-legged ties to determine who will join them in the last-16.

Liverpool, West Ham, Brighton and Rangers were joined in automatically qualifying for the last-16 by Atalanta, Villarreal, Salvia Prague and Bayer Leverkusen. Teams who finished second in their Europa League group will face the sides who finished third in their Champions League groups and were subsequently placed into the second-tier European competition.

The eight clubs who win their knockout play-off tie will be drawn against the eight Europa League group winners. There will be a quick turnaround for the draw for the next round, with victorious teams learning their opponents on February 23, fewer than 24 hours after the second legs have concluded.

Two-legged last-16 ties are scheduled to take place on March 7 and 14. It gives the British sides a little under a month before they return to European action.

Liverpool will be particularly relieved to have already qualified for the last-16 as they might have faced a gruelling knockout play-off journey in the days before their Carabao Cup final showdown against Chelsea on February 25.

Had Jurgen Klopp’s side finished second in their group, there was a possibility that they might have been drawn away to a European rival for the knockout play-off second leg on February 22. Liverpool instead face Luton at Anfield in the Premier League on February 21, meaning there will be no long-distance travelling for their players before they head to Wembley.

Klopp expressed his delight when Liverpool defeated LASK 4-0 on November 30, a result that ensured Liverpool would finish top of their group. “We are now top of the table and that will not change,” he said two days later.

“That’s good. Very important in the busy, busy, busy schedule we have from now on.”

Among the strongest teams British sides could face in the last-16 are Roma, Galatasaray, Sporting Lisbon, Benfica and last season’s Champions League semi-finalists, AC Milan.

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