ISTANBUL — Napoli and Leicester will have more than usual to play for when they meet in the group stage of the Europa League.
The teams were drawn into the same group on Friday, along with Spartak Moscow and Legia Warsaw, for the slimmed down tournament that now has 32 teams instead of 48.
Only the group winners will will advance directly to the round of 16 in March. The second-place teams will face the third-place teams from the Champions League for the other eight spots.
The change is related to the creation of the Europa Conference League. Similarly, the third-place teams in the Europa League will face the second-place teams in the Europa Conference League for a spot in the third-tier competition’s round of 16.
All three competitions will have 32 teams split into eight groups.
Only teams from high-ranked domestic leagues and champions from lower-ranked countries were eligible for the revamped Europa League. Napoli and Leicester qualified by finishing in fifth place in Serie A and the Premier League, respectively.
Four former European champions are also in the field, including Marseille, the winner of the first Champions League in 1993. The French club will face Lazio, Lokomotiv Moscow and Galatasaray.
PSV Eindhoven, Celtic and Red Star Belgrade are the others. PSV will be up against Monaco, Real Sociedad and Sturm Graz, while Celtic is in a group with Bayer Leverkusen, Real Betis and Ferencváros.
Red Star Belgrade, the European champion in 1991, will face Braga, Ludogorets and Midtjylland.
In other groups, it’s: Lyon, Rangers, Sparta Prague and Brøndby; West Ham, Dinamo Zagreb, Genk and Rapid Vienna; and Eintracht Frankfurt, Olympiakos, Fenerbahçe and Antwerp.
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The Canadian Press