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Inaugural Europa Conference League final heads to Albania

UEFA, football’s European governing body, has awarded hosting rights for the final of its inaugural Europa Conference League to the Air Albania Stadium in Tirana, while Italy’s Allianz Stadium and San Siro will stage the finals of next year’s Nations League.

Air Albania Stadium, which has a capacity of around 22,000, opened last November when the Albanian national team hosted France. The venue has been selected to stage the Europa Conference League final in 2022.

The Europa Conference League will debut in the 2021-22 season and will sit below the Champions League and Europa League as UEFA’s third-tier club competition. A total of 184 teams will be involved over the course of the season, including at least one from each of the 55 UEFA associations, with 46 clubs transferring from the Champions League or Europa League.

The group stage will feature 32 teams, 17 of which will have qualified through the Europa Conference League main path and five of which through the champions path. The remaining 10 spots will be taken by teams eliminated in the Europa League play-offs.

The inaugural Europa Conference League final will be held at the Air Albania Stadium on May 25, 2022. The winners will gain a place for the following season’s Europa League if they have not qualified for the Champions League. It will mark the first time that Albania has hosted a major UEFA final.

Meanwhile, UEFA has announced that the finals stage of next year’s Nations League competition will take place at Allianz Stadium in Turin and the San Siro, home of cross-city rivals Inter and AC Milan.

The two semi-finals will be held on October 6-7, with the third-place match and the final scheduled for October 10. The inaugural Nations League finals were held in the Portuguese cities of Porto and Guimarães in 2019.

In other news, UEFA has awarded Romania and Georgia co-hosting rights for the 2023 edition of its European U21 Championship. Four stadiums in Romania (two in Cluj-Napoca and two in Bucharest) and four venues in Georgia (Batumi, Poti and two in Tbilisi) will be used. Romania will host the opening match and Georgia will stage the final.

UEFA also announced that it has lifted a ban on Azerbaijan and Armenia that prevented the two countries from hosting matches in its competitions. UEFA suspended matches in Armenia and Azerbaijan in October amid rising tensions between the neighbouring countries.

UEFA has now lifted the ban after a ceasefire was agreed between both countries on November 9. A 68,000-seat stadium in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku will be one of the host venues during next summer’s rescheduled European Championships.

Image: ErtonKashta/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size