The Europa League is a much-maligned competition. The teams are not as good as those in the Champions League, the football is played in the graveyard of Europe on Thursday nights and the form of the English teams involved drops dramatically in the league, or at least that is how it is perceived. While there are truths in that, this year has shown that the competition is a wonderful one when it comes to surprises and attacking football. Plus, with the added bonus of Champions League qualification for the winner there is a purpose to playing your best players.
In the first part of these 2 reviews of the group stages of the Europa League, I looked at how Inter, Dinamo Moscow and Red Bull Salzburg have already won their groups with Celtic, Tottenham, Beşiktaş and PSV joining them in the knockout stages. Today it’s the turn of the remaining 6 groups, with almost all of them undecided going into the final match. They include the defending champions, Sevilla, the lowest ranked team, AAB, and the final British team, Everton.
Before we start, let’s have a look at which teams will be involved, starting with pots 1&2:
Now, pots 3&4:
So, now that you have the names of all the teams involved in this second review, let’s get down to the details of how the groups have unfolded. It is worth noting at this point the tiebreaker scenarios, should a team finish level on points with another the separating criteria is goal difference played in the matches between the sides in question. If that’s level then it goes to goals scored against the team in question, then goals scored away from home. So, for example if team A draws 0-0 at home with team B and if they draw 1-1 at team B’s place then A would go through on away goals. If it’s still level after that then it comes to down to overall goal difference, total goals scored before finally being decided on their coefficient.
Story so far:
- Liège beat Rijeka 2-0, Sevilla start their title defence with a 2-0 win over Feyenoord
- Feyenoord beat Liège 2-1, Sevilla rescue a 2-2 draw against Rijeka in Croatia
- Rijeka beat Feyenoord 3-1 as Liège and Sevilla draw 0-0
- In the return legs, Sevilla beat Liège 3-1 and Feyenoord beat Rijeka 2-0
- Rijeka beat Liège 2-0 as Feyenoord qualified with a 2-0 win over Sevilla
Group G has come down to a straight shoot-out between reigning champions Sevilla and the unknown Croatia force Riejka. Despite Liège winning their first match, they haven’t since and find themselves out of contention. On the other hand, Feyenoord lost their first and managed to qualify. In the final matches, Liège host Feyenoord, with Feyenoord needing to win to top the group, while Riejka travel to Spain.
- Sevilla win/draw, Feyenoord win: Feyenoord, Sevilla
- Sevilla win, Liège win/draw: Sevilla, Feyenoord
- Sevilla draw, Feyenoord draw: Feyenoord, Sevilla
- Sevilla draw, Liège win 1-0: Places decided by how many goals are scored in the draw
- Sevilla draw, Liège win more than 1-0: Sevilla, Feyenoord
- Rijeka win, Feyenoord win: Feyenoord, Rijeka
- Rijeka win, Liège win/draw: Rijeka, Feyenoord
Story so far:
- Everton beat Wolfsburg 4-1 as Lille and Krasnodar draw 1-1
- Krasnodar v Everton and Wolfsburg v Lille both end 1-1
- Wolfsburg beat Krasnodar 4-2 in Russia as Lille and Everton play out a dreadful 0-0
- Wolfsburg hammer Krasnodar 5-1 in Germany, Everton beat Lille 3-0 at Goodison
- Lille rescue a draw in Russia, 1-1 v Krasnodar, Everton beat Wolfsburg 2-0 in Germany
Widely recognised as the group of death, Wolfsburg’s chairman claimed it was more like a Champions League group with Everton in it. Despite that, Everton have progressed serenely, with the win in Germany securing top place being the highlight. Relatively encouraging performances from Krasnodar weren’t enough to see them through, leaving the match between Lille and Wolfsburg in France deciding who finishes second. Everton will play a youth team against Kransodar, as the result no longer matters. In fact, Martinez announced 9 of his players and they included long term absentees Kone, Oviedo and McAleny so the match will be a wonderful chance to see how the fringe players are getting along.
- Wolfsburg win/draw: Everton, Wolfsburg
- Lille win: Everton, Lille
Story so far:
- Young Boys beat Bratislava 5-0 as Napoli defeated Sparta Prague 3-1
- Prague beat Young Boys 3-1, Napoli travelled to Slovakia and beat Bratislava 2-0
- Young Boys upset Napoli 2-0, Prague went away to Bratislava and won 3-0
- Napoli beat Young Boys 3-0, while Prague thrashed Bratislava 4-0
- Bratislava lost the 5th match, this time 3-1 at home to YB. Napoli 0-0 Prague
Favourites before the group stage started, Napoli have shown why. One shock loss to Young Boys aside (you could say when Boys became Men), they’ve managed to qualify before the last game. Under normal tiebreak rules they wouldn’t have done but due to their better head to head record over Young Boys and Prague, neither outfit can overtake the Italians. The whipping boys of the group weren’t the Bern team, but the one from Slovakia, as Bratislava have lost all their matches. All that means is Napoli need a home victory over Bratislava to guarantee topping the group while Prague and Young Boys battle in out in Switzerland.
- Young Boys win, Napoli win: Napoli, Young Boys
- Young Boys win, Bratislava win/draw: Young Boys, Napoli
- Young Boys draw, Napoli win: Napoli, Sparta Prague
- Sparta Prague draw, Napoli draw: Napoli, Sparta Prague
- Sparta Prague draw, Bratislava win: Sparta Prague, Napoli
- Sparta Prague win, Napoli win: Napoli, Sparta Prague
- Sparta Prague win, Bratislava win/draw: Sparta Prague, Napoli
Story so far:
- București started with a 6-0 thrashing of AaB, Kyiv went to Portugal and beat Ave 3-0
- Kyiv beat București 3-1, AaB won 1-0 over Rio Ave
- AaB surprised Kyiv by winning 3-0 in Denmark, București beat Ave 2-1
- Kyiv restored order by beating AaB 2-0 as Rio Ave drew with București 2-2
- AaB beat București 1-0 while Kyiv defeated Ave 2-0
Entering the group stage, AaB were the side with the lowest coefficient according to UEFA despite being Danish champions. They’ve proved to UEFA that they are no push-overs and now sit in a brilliant position to qualify for the knockout stages. They travel to Portugal to face Rio Ave, who have amassed a grand total of 1 point to date. In the other match, București host Kyiv. Kyiv are through, but not guaranteed of top spot which will help them avoid the likes of Everton and Red Bull as well as possibly Napoli.
- București win, AaB win: AaB, Kyiv
- București win, AaB draw: Kyiv, București (better H2H GD over AaB)
- București win, Rio Ave win: Kyiv, București
- Kyiv win/draw: Kyiv, AaB
Story so far:
- PAOK destroy Minsk 6-1, Fiorentina beat Guingamp 3-0
- Guingamp get points on the board, 2-0 over PAOK, as Fiorentina win 3-0 in Minsk
- PAOK lose 1-0 at home to Fiorentina while Minsk and Guingamp draw 0-0
- Guingamp beat Minsk 2-0, Fiorentina draw 1-1 with PAOK
- Two away wins, PAOK 2-0 in Minsk and Fiorentina 2-1 in Guingamp
Fiorentina have ran away with this group, only dropping points at home to PAOK. On the contrary, Minsk’s only point came when they shut Guingamp out. That point has cost Guingamp the chance to qualify with Fiorentina and they are stuck on 7 points along with PAOK. While this is Guingamp’s loss, the gain is both for PAOK and us as the French must travel to Greece, in a shoot-out for second place. Unfortunately, one good match means the other must be a dead-rubber as Fiorentina host Minsk.
- PAOK win: Fiorentina, PAOK
- Guingamp win/draw: Fiorentina, Guingamp
Story so far:
- Trabzonspor win 2-1 in Ukraine, vs Metalist. Legia Warsaw beat Lokeren 1-0
- Lokeren beat Metalist 1-0 as Legia Warsaw also win 1-0 in Trabzonspor
- Legia Warsaw won 1-0 again, this time vs Kharkiv. Trabzonspor beat Lokeren 2-0
- Lokeren draw 1-1 v Trabzonspor while Legia Warsaw beat Metalist 2-1
- Trabzonspor beat Metalist 3-1 and Lokeren beat Legia Warsaw 1-0
Despite Lokeren beating Warsaw last time out, their inferior goal difference in matches against Trabzonspor means even a win won’t see them qualify. Metalist have finished bottom of the group, with a grand total of nul points (to date). They host Lokeren while the battle for top spot happens in Poland. Warsaw, who would have won the group with any kind of point in their last match, host Trabzonspor. Trabzonspor must win to avoid the heavyweights of the Europa League in the next round.
- Legia Warsaw win/draw: Legia Warsaw, Trabzonspor
- Trabzonspor win: Trabzonspor, Legia Warsaw
These matches take place at 20:05 UK time, and the dead rubber Everton match will be live on ITV4. For me, the most exciting group is Group G, which could yet be decided on the amount of goals scored in the draw. Possibly the most interesting match will be between PAOK and Guingamp. PAOK sit third in the group, so need to win yet are hosting the match so should be favourites. There is qualification issues to be decided in every group so the later kick-offs are definitely ones to keep an eye on!
The end of the Europa League group stages promises to have an exciting conclusion. Now, I have provided you with all the information you need to know all the permutations of every match, every goal.
Next time I will preview all the first knockout round matches, including looking in depth at the Champions League entrants into the UEL.