The Europa League round of 32 draw is here, and Napoli will find out who they'll be facing in the first knockout round. As a seeded team thanks to winning -- no, dominating -- their group, the theory goes that Napoli would get a fairly easy draw and thus a likely path deeper into the knockout rounds. Looking at who they could be facing, though, and their path looks anything but easy.
There are 14 potential teams they can face, and most of them fall into the "tough opponent" or "nightmare" descriptions. Thanks to some wonky finishes in the Europa League groups and tougher-than-normal teams dropping from the Champions League, there's plenty of harsh potential matchups for Napoli to deal with.
The teams they'll most want to avoid are defending Europa champs Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, Villarreal, and Fenerbahce. The other tough sides or potential wildcards -- teams that are good on paper but have struggled this season -- include Valencia, Galatasaray, Shakhtar Donetsk, Olympique Marseille, and Sporting Club de Portugal. The only real "ideal" draws are Sion and Augsburg -- as well as potentially Sparta Prague, a team that Napoli facedlast year in the group stage and did well against, but have played better this season.
The round of 32 matches will be played on the 16th and 25th of February in a home-and-away two legged tie. As a seeded side, Napoli will play away in the first leg away and get the crucial return leg at home in front of the San Paolo faithful.
Full list of possible opponents
(* - dropped from Champions League)
- Sevilla (Spain)*
- Valencia (Spain)*
- Galatasaray (Turkey)*
- Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)*
- Fenerbahce (Turkey)
- Sion (Switzerland)
- Borussia Dortmund (Germany)
- Villarreal (Spain)
- Olympique Marseille (France)
- AS Saint-Etienne (France)
- Sporting Club de Portugal (Portugal)
- Anderlecht (Belgium)
- Sparta Prague (Czech Republic)
- Augsburg (Germany)
When: Monday, December 14th, 1 p.m. local, 7 a.m. ET
Where: Nyon, Switzerland
Watch it: The draw will be streaming live on UEFA.com.