A first European quarter-final berth in 20 years beckons Feyenoord as they host Partizan in Rotterdam with a 5-2 lead from the first leg of their UEFA Europa Conference League round of 16 tie in Belgrade.
• Feyenoord’s direct qualification for the round of 16 was earned as unbeaten winners of Group E, in which they finished six points ahead of runners-up Slavia Praha.
• Partizan took the runners-up spot behind Gent in Group B despite failing to win any of their last four fixtures, but then triumphed in both legs of their knockout round play-off against Sparta Praha, 1-0 in Prague with a goal from Dutchman Queensy Menig and 2-1 in Belgrade with a double from Ricardo Gomes, who was later sent off.
• The two seasoned European campaigners had never met before the first leg, which turned out to be a memorable occasion for Feyenoord, who fought back from 0-1 and 1-2 down to score four second-half goals, from Cyriel Dessers, Lutsharel Geertruida, Luis Sinisterra and – with his second of the night – Jens Toornstra, and take a giant stride towards the club’s first continental quarter-final since they won the UEFA Cup in 2001/02.
• The first leg was Feyenoord’s first UEFA encounter with a Serbian club for over 40 years. Although they won the home leg in each of their previous two ties, both in the UEFA Cup, they were eliminated by both OFK Beograd from the 1972/73 second round (4-3 h, 1-2 a) and Radnički Niš from the 1981/82 third round (0-2 a, 1-0 h).
• Partizan won their two previous knockout ties against Dutch opposition – both against Groningen – despite losing the away leg on each occasion. Their last two visits to the Netherlands brought a 2-1 win and 2-2 draw against AZ Alkmaar in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League, the first in Alkmaar in 2015/16, the second in The Hague in 2019/20 when they were 2-0 up before conceding twice late on.
• Fifth in the Dutch Eredivisie last season, 29 points in arrears of champions and traditional rivals Ajax, Feyenoord secured their fifth European group stage appearance in six seasons by coming through three UEFA Europa Conference League qualifying rounds under new head coach Arne Slot at the expense of Drita, Luzern and Elfsborg.
• The Rotterdam club had failed to make further progress in four successive European group stage participations until this season, most recently finishing third in their UEFA Europa League section last term, but they had no such difficulties in UEFA Europa Conference League Group E, taking four points off both Slavia (2-1 h, 2-2 a) and Maccabi Haifa (0-0 a, 2-1 h) and all six off Union Berlin (3-1 h, 2-1 a).
• Although Feyenoord were beaten in Rotterdam by both Wolfsberg (1-4) and Dinamo Zagreb (0-2) last term, those are the only two defeats they have suffered in their last 15 European home games (W10 D3). They have won all six this season in the UEFA Europa Conference League, scoring 18 goals in the process.
• Just one of the 19 previous UEFA ties in which Feyenoord won the away leg has resulted in their elimination – a 1998/99 UEFA Cup first round tie against Stuttgart (3-1 a, 0-3 h). None of the 18 successes have been triggered by a 5-2 away win, although the Rotterdammers have prevailed 3-0 on the road in the first leg four times in the past, most recently against Luzern in this season’s UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round, when they also won the return by the same score.
• Runners-up to Crvena zvezda in both domestic competitions last season, finishing 13 points adrift in the Serbian SuperLiga and losing on penalties after a goalless draw in the cup final, Partizan’s reward was a qualifying spot in the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League.
• The club’s 26th successive European campaign kicked off in the second qualifying round of the new competition, where they defeated Dunajská Streda before prevailing on penalties against Sochi and coming from behind to beat Santa Clara in the play-offs. Victorious in each of their opening two Group B games – against Anorthosis (2-0 a) and Flora Tallinn (2-0 h) – Aleksandar Stanojević’s side chalked up just two more points but the second of them, in a 1-1 draw at home to Anorthosis on Matchday 6, was enough to clinch qualification, albeit with a five-point deficit on group winners Gent.
• Victory in Prague in the first leg of their knockout round play-off made Partizan’s away record in Europe this season W3 D2 L2, that win having been preceded by a draw in Gent (1-1) and a shock 0-1 defeat in Estonia by Flora. Their three wins have all come with clean sheets.
• Partizan have won just one of the six previous UEFA ties in which they fell to a home defeat, recovering from a 0-1 loss against Newcastle in the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League qualifying round to win the return in England by the same score and qualify for the group stage on penalties. The only time they have previously lost the first leg at home by a three-goal margin was in the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League qualifying round against Bayern München, who also beat them 3-1 in Munich.
UEFA Europa Conference League squad changes
In: Jorrit Hendrix (Spartak Moskva, loan), Philippe Sandler (Manchester City), Patrik Wålemark (BK Häcken)
Out: Francesco Antonucci (Volendam, loan), Aliou Balde (Waasland-Beveren, loan), Naoufal Bannis (NAC Breda, loan), Mark Diemers (Hannover, loan), João Teixeira (Famalicão), Bernardo Silva (Famalicão), Mikael Tørset Johnsen (Venezia)
In: Ljubomir Fejsa (Al-Ahli, Saudi Arabia), Marko Jevtović (Al Ahli, Qatar)
Out: Rajko Brežančić, Mateja Djordjević (Voždovac), Aleksandar Šćekić (Zagłębie Lubin), Seydouba Soumah (Kuwait SC), Nikola Štulić (Radnički Niš)
Links and trivia
• Amsterdam-born Menig started his career with Ajax and had two loan spells in the Eredivisie with PEC Zwolle before establishing himself in the 2020/21 Dutch top flight with Twente, from whom he joined Partizan last September.
• Feyenoord’s Philippe Sandler was Menig’s team-mate at Zwolle in 2016/17.
• Partizan’s Bibras Natcho, who has made 131 appearances in UEFA club competition and opened the scoring in the first leg, and Feyenoord goalkeeper Ofir Marciano are fellow Israeli internationals.
• Feyenoord are joined by three other Dutch sides in the UEFA Europa Conference League round of 16 – AZ Alkmaar, PSV Eindhoven and Vitesse. The only other country with more than one representative is France, with two – Marseille and Rennes.
• Feyenoord are one of three former European Cup/UEFA Champions League winners in the UEFA Europa Conference League round of 16 – along with Marseille and PSV.
• Partizan are the current Serbian SuperLiga leaders with a two-point advantage over Crvena zvezda, while Feyenoord are third in the Eredivisie, eight points behind table-toppers Ajax.
• Feyenoord’s record in two UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W2 L0:
5-3 v Sion, 1991/92 European Cup Winners’ Cup second round
5-4 v PSV Eindhoven, 2001/02 UEFA Cup quarter-final
• Partizan’s record in eight UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W4 L4:
4-5 v Dynamo Dresden, 1978/79 European Champion Clubs’ Cup first round
4-3 v Real Sociedad, 1990/91 UEFA Cup second round
2-3 v Sporting Gijón, 1991/92 UEFA Cup first round
4-3 v Newcastle, 2003/04 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round
3-4 v Petržalka, 2005/06 UEFA Champions League play-off
3-2 v Anderlecht, 2010/11 UEFA Champions League play-off
3-4 v Zagłębie Lubin, 2016/17 UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
4-2 v Sochi, 2021/22 UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round
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