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AS Roma
LIVE 81'
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Apoel Nicosia
Athletic Bilbao
LIVE 80'
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Tottenham Hotspur
KAA Gent
8:05 PM UTC
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Borussia Monchengladbach
8:05 PM UTC
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Shakhtar Donetsk
Celta Vigo
8:05 PM UTC
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FC Dallas
Arabe Unido
1:00 AM UTC Feb 24, 2017
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Europa League round of 16 draw

Europa League

Trending: Rooney announces Man Utd stay


Barcelona to open academy in China


Ball-ache at Gers, Balotelli TV show

Off the Ball never rests in its mission to scratch around the underbelly of professional football to find the most bizarre, humorous and inexplicable stories.

This week, Mario Balotelli is to be handed a TV prank show, a crafty Manchester United fan finds a novel way to sabotage Manchester City's "goals of football domination", Michael Ball reveals he had to pay Everton £4,000 every time he played for Rangers, Aston Villa declare war on the Magpies and a linesman is floored by a piece of wet cardboard.

Ball paid Everton £4k every time he played for Gers

The annual two-horse race that is the Scottish Premier League became an even less thrilling one-horse canter to victory this week after Rangers went into administration and were deducted ten points. Leaving the SPL's second-placed side in.. er...well, second...14 points behind champions-elect Celtic, but still nine points ahead of third-placed Motherwell.

Gers face a crippling tax bill of up to £75 million but it seems the Glasgow club were heading for financial meltdown as far back as 2005, with fullback Michael Ball revealing this week that he had to pay former club Everton £4,000 from his own pocket in order to play for Rangers.

Ball, who moved to Ibrox in a £6.5 million deal in 2001, told The Daily Record: "There was an agreement that when I played 60 games Everton were due more money ... [Former Rangers owner Sir David] Murray said, 'I want you to play but can't afford to pay the money'.

"For him to pull me in and say that it was clear the finances weren't there. I suppose alarm bells should have started ringing but back then no one could have imagined it coming to this.

"Murray actually called {Everton owner Bill] Kenwright but he wouldn't waive it. So we agreed it would be paid in instalments. I paid £4,000 every time I played and Rangers weighed in with the same."

As Chris Kamara might say, "unbelievable Jeff!"

Balotelli to star in TV prank show

Forget The Only Way is Essex , Desperate Scouse Wives and the rest of that kind of drivel, there's only one, mind-numbing programme to watch this summer as a series of top footballers including Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney and Mario Balotelli are set to star in a prime time TV prank show.

Off the Ball's mind is already boggling at the kind of tomfoolery that unholy trinity could get up to.

According to The Daily Mirror, the TV programme, Euro Wind-Ups, will see the stars play jokes on other players while hidden cameras capture the action in a You've Been Framed style show.

It will be shown on ITV1 in June to coincide with England's European Championship campaign in Poland and the Ukraine and producers are apparently pulling out all the stops to land some of the biggest names in football.

Lord help us.

Utd fan thwarts City plan for "football domination"

One crafty Manchester United fan has found a novel way to sabotage Manchester City's "goals of football domination" by selling off land earmarked for their state of the art, £100 million training complex in 5,000 separate parcels to fellow Reds supporters.

Shaun O'Brien, who runs vehicle recovery company OB Trucks, does not want to sell off his land near City's stadium, but claims he has been told to accept the £200,000 on offer or face being issued with a Compulsory Purchase Order, which would force him to sell up, by the council.

However, O'Brien isn't giving up without a fight and has split his land into square-foot plots and put them up for sale at £250 each on website 'Unite Against City' to disrupt City's plans to build their new facility.

City, the world's richest club, would then potentially have to negotiate with thousands of "ardent Reds" and "anybody else that feels strongly about our David & Goliath situation" in order to acquire the mostly-derelict 80-acre site and move on with their plans.

It's double stroke of evil genius from O'Brien, who could also net himself a nice £1 million pre-tax profit.

Magpies no match for new Villa signing

Aston Villa signed a new defender this week but unfortunately for Villa fans Tamworth trainee 'Gee' won't be plugging the sizeable gap left in the back four by Richard Dunne's two-month injury lay-off, instead he'll be fending off relentless attacks from Magpies.

New-signing Gee is a harris hawk, and has been brought in by frustrated Villa Park grounds manager Jonathan Calderwood in order to stop a horde of black and white intruders digging holes in his pristine pitch. And the bird of prey is proving to be one of Villa's most successful recruits for some time.

"Over the last few months we've had problems with magpies trying their luck with our pitch," Calderwood told the Birmingham Mail. "They are inquisitive creatures and dig holes in the turf which isn't great.

"We contacted our pest control department and they brought in Gee, who has done a marvellous job. He's just one of the team now. He's become a popular character - he's like one of the ground staff."

Magpies are infamous for their love of stealing shiny baubles, but the staff who work in Villa's trophy room aren't overly worried. (The 1996 League Cup, since you didn't ask - Ed)

Video of the week

Off the Ball has poked fun at the shameful histrionics of football's pampered players on more than one occasion this season and so it's only right that referees should come in for equal mockery. Step forward Belgian Jupiler League linesman Frederick Geldhof who, after being hit on the head by damp piece of cardboard thrown from the crowd, proceeded to stagger onto the pitch and perform a death scene of such ham-fisted overacting it's surely worth of a Sergio Busquets Award. The player's reaction upon discovering what the missile actually was is also classic. To see the linesman's comedy acting, click here .

More than words...

The moment Zambia celebrate winning the African Nations Cup with a penalty shootout victory against favourites Ivory Coast. ©Getty Images

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