Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp celebrates at the end of the...

Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp celebrates at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Luton Town, at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. Credit: AP/Peter Byrne

NYON, Switzerland — Liverpool will go to Sparta Prague for the first leg of the Europa League round of 16. The trip could have been much farther than the Czech Republic.

Qarabag was among the potential opponents in Friday's draw, but the Azerbaijani club was paired with Bayer Leverkusen.

That means a long trip to Baku for a March 7 midweek game for the Bundesliga leader.

The travel still won't be considered ideal by Liverpool, which has a huge English Premier League match against Manchester City on March 10.

Liverpool, Leverkusen and the other six teams that topped their groups will host the second-leg matches a week after their openers away from home.

"The first thing to say is that at this stage of European competition it makes sense to expect a proper test and this is what we have got,” manager Jurgen Klopp told Liverpool's website.

At this stage, teams from the same national association cannot meet.

Leverkusen's goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky celebrates after the Bundesliga soccer match...

Leverkusen's goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky celebrates after the Bundesliga soccer match between 1. FC Heidenheim and Bayer 04 Leverkusen in Heidenheim, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. Credit: AP/Tom Weller

The Europa League final is on May 22 in Dublin.

ALONSO'S TRAVELS

The eight group-stage winners qualified directly for the round of 16. The group stage runners-up played the eight third-place teams from the Champions League group stage in the playoffs to get into the draw, held at UEFA headquarters.

Leverkusen faces Qarabag in the knockout round after the teams also met in the group stage — Leverkusen won 5-1 at home and 1-0 in Baku. Qarabag bagged a stoppage-time goal in extra time Thursday against Braga to reach the round of 16 in a European competition for the first time.

Sparta's Lukas Haraslin celebrates after scoring his side's third goal...

Sparta's Lukas Haraslin celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the Europa League play-off second leg soccer match between Sparta Prague and Galatasaray at the Epet Arena in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. Credit: AP/Petr David Josek

West Ham beat Freiburg home and away in the group stage. They will meet again in the last 16.

Roma advanced Thursday with a penalty shootout victory over Feyenoord in their playoff, and next faces Brighton.

ROUND-OF-16 DRAW

The round-of-16 matchups (group winners listed first, playing away first): March 6: Atalanta vs. Sporting Lisbon. March 7: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Qarabag, Brighton vs. Roma, Liverpool vs. Sparta Prague, Rangers vs. Benfica, Slavia Prague vs. AC Milan, Villarreal vs. Marseille, West Ham vs. Freiburg.

EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE

Ajax was drawn to play Aston Villa in Europe's third-tier competition. The English club topped its group to qualify directly for the round of 16. Ajax advanced on Thursday when Kenneth Taylor scored the winner in extra time to defeat Norwegian host Bodø/Glimt 2-1 — and 4-3 on aggregate in their knockout playoff.

The Europa Conference League final is on May 29 in Athens — with Greek clubs PAOK and Olympiacos still in the running.

The round-of-16 matchups (group winners listed first, playing away on March 7): Aston Villa vs. Ajax, Club Brugge vs. Molde, Fenerbahçe vs. Union Saint-Gilloise, Fiorentina vs. Maccabi Haifa, Lille vs. Sturm Graz, Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Olympiakos, PAOK vs. Dinamo Zagreb, Viktoria Plzen vs. Servette.

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