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Europa League play-off round draw simulator: Man Utd get Ajax, while Barcelona and Juventus get mixed draws

Ryan Smart

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Europa League play-off round draw simulator: Man Utd get Ajax, while Barcelona and Juventus get mixed draws

The Europa League play-off round draw takes place on Monday - and before it gets underway, we decided to run a simulation to see who Man United, Barcelona and co could face.

Newly introduced for this year, the play-off round features the runners-up from the eight Europa League groups, and the third-placed finishers from the eight Champions League groups.

As ever at this stage of proceedings, teams from the same association cannot be drawn against each other. That means Barcelona cannot draw Sevilla, Juventus won't face Roma, and Ajax vs PSV won't occur either.

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The draw is packed full of clubs with European prestige. Barcelona (17 European trophies), Juventus (eight), Ajax (eight), Sevilla (seven) and United (six) are all in the top 20 most successful clubs in Europe of all time.

With all that mind, we decided to run Monday's draw through a simulator - and it cooked up some mouthwatering ties.

Here they are:

Manchester United vs Ajax

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The headlines are already written for this one. Erik ten Hag's return to his former club - the club that he took to a Europa League final, a Champions League semi-final and six domestic titles in the Netherlands.

That Europa League final was against Ten Hag's new side, and Ajax would most certainly want revenge.

United would certainly suffer over two legs against a side who have the Dutchman's own principles drilled into them. It would be a fascinating contest.

PSV Eindhoven vs Barcelona

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In another interesting draw, the draw simulator has pitted Barcelona against the other Dutch giant - PSV.

With Cody Gakpo and Xavi Simons, in particular, on fire this season, and ex-Barca loan forward Luuk de Jong wanting to prove his former club wrong over not activating an option to sign him permanently this summer, this would promise to be another must-watch clash.

Should Barca be on the losing end of it, it would be another major blow to Xavi and his side.

Bayer Leverkusen vs Roma

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Jose Mourinho's Roma are looking to back up last season's Europa Conference League success with more silverware in Europe. But they would have their work cut out against Bayer Leverkusen.

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It's been a challenging season for Leverkusen, who sacked manager Gerardo Seoane in October after a run of difficult results.

New boss Xabi Alonso - a former player of Mourinho's at Real Madrid - couldn't keep them in the Champions League, and despite winning his first game in charge against Schalke, the Germans went on a six-match winless run.

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But a 5-0 thrashing of Union Berlin in the Bundesliga on Sunday showed what they can produce when on top form. And Roma, who are currently sixth in Serie A, would need to be at their best to triumph.

Midtjylland vs Juventus

An ever-present in European competition since 2014, Midtjylland were part of one of the closest groups in Europa League history this season.

In Group F, each of the four sides finished level on eight points, with the Danish champions edging out Lazio into second place via goal difference.

They would relish a clash against Juventus, who bowed out of the Champions League in surprise fashion, never really threatening the top two of Benfica and PSG.

Juve have at least picked up in Serie A, winning each of their last four games, and are starting to hit some form.

Monaco vs Sevilla

The Europa League's most successful club, Sevilla, will be looking to win their seventh title after dropping out of the Champions League.

Now under the management of Jorge Sampaoli, they would take on a Monaco side now focused on developing younger players, but with a potent strikeforce featuring Wissam Ben Yedder and Breel Embolo.

Union Berlin vs Shakhtar Donetsk

The Bundesliga's surprise package at the start of the season, Union Berlin came crashing down to earth on Sunday with a 5-0 loss at Bayer Leverkusen.

But they had 48 days on top of the table before slipping back down to third, and they would be full of confidence heading into a tie against Ukrainian giants Shakhtar.

But although they finished third in their Champions League group, Shakhtar took a home point against Real Madrid, and ran them close in the away fixture. They could go a long way in the tournament.

Sporting Lisbon vs Rennes

This would be another intriguing fixture, with Rennes flying high in third in Ligue 1. In Martin Terrier, they have a genuine goalscorer, with the France striker netting on eight occasions in the league this season.

Sporting, meanwhile, dropped out of the Champions League, but would have progressed with a point on the final matchday against Frankfurt.

Their start to the Liga Portugal season hasn't exactly gone to plan - they are 12 points behind leaders Benfica after 12 games - but they always represent a threat.

Nantes vs Salzburg

Unlike Rennes, Nantes have had a poor start to the Ligue 1 season, and are just one point above the relegation zone after 14 games.

But their final matchweek 2-0 win over Olympiakos in Greece saw them through in Europe, and they face a Salzburg side that came third in a Champions League group involving Chelsea and AC Milan. Had they beat Milan in the sixth and final game, they would have made it through.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Europa League, Barcelona, Ajax, Manchester United, Juventus, PSV

Ryan Smart
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