The Europa League rule changes Wolves, Manchester United and Arsenal need to know
After navigating their way through three, two legged qualifiers, Wolverhampton Wanderers begin their Europa League group stage campaign at home to Braga.
Wolves earned their place in Group K after beating Crusaders, FC Pyunik and Torino in a hectic fixture logjam.
Along with tonight’s opponents, Wolves were also grouped with Slovan Bratislava and Turkish giants Besiktas.
Wolves are one of five British representatives in Europe’s second-tier competition, with all of them looking to make a positive start on Thursday night.
Celtic and Rangers meanwhile will be looking to improve on what has been a disappointing record for Scottish teams on the continent in the last few years.
With all 48 teams opening their accounts tonight, here are some of the key rule changes including the controversial use of VAR in this season’s tournament:
Fixture list in full
Wolves vs Braga, 8pm, September 19
Besiktas vs Wolves, 5:55pm, October 3
Slovan Bratislava vs Wolves, 5:55pm, October 24
Wolves vs Slovan Bratislava, 8pm, November 7
Braga vs Wolves, 5:55pm, November 28
Wolves vs Besiktas, 8pm, December 12
Wolves fans have already developed a tumultuous relationship with the new technology in the opening weeks of the domestic season. Nuno’s men were denied an opening day win after it was adjudged there was a handball in the build-up, whilst Ruben Neves’ Manchester United stunner was over analysed, before finally being given.
But there will be no such issues in their midweek European encounters. UEFA had hoped to roll out the technology in the group stages but have now accepted that with the amount of games, it won’t be possible. Instead, only the final in Gdansk will have a VAR.
As Wolves can attest, players will be penalised for using their hands or arms, accidentally or not, to create a goalscoring chance or to score themselves.
Teams will be able to pick three players to come on from as many as 12 substitutes in what is now a 23-man match-day squad, as Liverpool and Tottenham had in last year’s final. Managers previously had only seven players on the bench.
Attackers will have to stand at least one metre away from the defensive wall when a free-kick is about to be taken, rather than interfering with it.
Arsenal have already suffered with the new goal kick rule, one that means defensive players can stand in the area and take a short pass from their keeper. Opposition players are still not allowed in the area.
There will now be no drop balls. The ball will be given to the goalkeeper of the team who last touched the ball and played have to be four metres away.
Rui Patricio’s penalty save from Paul Pogba would have been looked at, keepers can now not touch the goalposts and must keep one foot on the line.
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Leaving the pitch
Players will now be forced to leave the pitch nearest to wherever they are positioned on the field, rather than walking across towards the benches, in an attempt to stop time-wasting.
Yellow and red cards
Managers will now receive yellow and red cards for misconduct.