Following last week’s conclusion to both the Champions League and the Europa League, the final 32 teams have been decided. Joining the 24 group winners and runners up from the Europa League are the 8 3rd place teams in the Champions League. This article will look in detail at how the Champions League teams have arrived in this competition as well as look at the results from the final round of matches of the Europa League. If you have read my previous two articles then you will know how the groups stood going into the final round of matches, now, if you don’t already know, I will outline how they all finished.
Without further ado, let’s get this started:
Mönchengladbach 3 – 0 Zürich
Limassol 0 – 2 Villarreal
Club Brugge 2 – 1 HJK
Copenhagen 1 – 5 Torino
Partizan 0 – 0 Tripoli
Beşiktaş 1 – 0 Tottenham
Red Bull 5 – 1 Astra
Zagreb 4 – 3 Celtic
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PSV 0 – 1 Dynamo Moscow
Panathinaikos 1 – 1 Estoril
Dnipro 1 – 0 Saint-Étienne
Qarabağ 0 – 0 Inter
Liège 0 – 3 Feyenoord
Sevilla 1 – 0 Rijeka
Lille 0 – 3 Wolfsburg
Everton 0 – 1 Krasnodar
Young Boys 2 – 0 Sparta Prague
Napoli 3 – 0 Bratislava
Bucureşti 0 – 2 Kyiv
Rio Ave 2 – 0 AaB
PAOK 1 – 2 Guingamp
Fiorentina 1 – 2 Minsk
Metalist 0 – 1 Lokeren
Legia Warsaw 2 – 0 Trabzonspor
Champions League Teams:
Seeded: Olympiacos, Sporting, Bilbao, Zenit
Un-seeded: Anderlecht, Ajax, Liverpool, Roma
Olympiacos entered the Champions League at the group stage, due to their Greek championship last season. Drawn into a group with former winners Juventus, last years runners up Athlético and Swedish side Malmö, third was probably the best they could hope for. Their first three matches included two victories at home over the two giants in their group. Unfortunately, they also lost to Malmö and then didn’t win again until the last match. By beating Malmö 4 – 2 in Greece they managed to secure third and qualified for the Europa League. They became seeded as a result of winning more points than any other third placed side.
Sporting finished second to Benfica in their domestic league so also entered the Champions League at the group stage. They were another team with a tough draw, having to entertain Chelsea and Schalke, but managed to finish above Maribor. They won two matches, against Schalke and Maribor as well as drawing the away match in Slovakia. They were only one point away to overthrowing Schalke for second place in the group, a point they lost when they conceded a last minute winner in Germany (a match they had been winning).
Bilbao also picked up 7 points in the group stage of the Champions League, in a group featuring Porto and Shakhtar. They qualified for that stage as a result of beating Napoli in the play-off round, who they could face again at some point in the Europa League. Starting with a goal-less draw with Shakhtar, they then lost to BATE and Porto twice. In four matches, they had 1 point and were rock bottom of the group. Qualification to any competition looked unlikely, until 2 wins in 2 matches against BATE and Donetsk promoted them to third.
Zenit St Petersburg:
Despite having to play two ties before reaching the group stage, Zenit found themselves seeded second in the draw. They were drawn in a group with Benfica, Leverkusen and Monaco, the one team everyone was hoping to avoid from the fourth pot. Third and fourth pot teams upset the odds by finishing second and top of this group, with Zenit third on 7 points. Wins over Benfica and a draw with Monaco were enough to see them enter the Europa League.
Anderlecht have already had a fascinating journey in Europe this season. Despite having less than half of the points of both the group winner and second place, they were comfortably in third place. Arsenal and Dortmund ran away with the group, both only dropping 5 points each. Anderlecht were responsible for taking 4 of these 10, by coming from behind in both Germany and England. The match of either European Competition so far came in North London where Arsenal let a 3 goal lead slip to the Belgian champions. They beat and drew with Galatasaray, which was the only point the Turkish side picked up. Their 6 points weren’t enough to get them a seeding.
Drawn with Barcelona and PSG, Ajax were never expected to progress from their group. They did what they needed to do by beating APOEL in Holland, drawing in Cyprus and managing to pick up a point when hosting PSG. Narrow two goal losses home and away to Barcelona ended their hopes of qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League but a place in the Europa League was consolation enough for them.
Despite the presence of the holders, Real Madrid, in their group Liverpool should have qualified fairly easily for the next stage. Basel and Ludogrets weren’t expected to pose too many problems however they started as soon as the matches began, with a fortunate Gerrard penalty required to beat Ludogrets before losing three matches to Basel and Real Madrid on the bounce. They ended the group with two draws against Ludogrets and Basel meaning they only won one match in their entire Champions League campaign.
Another team with a tough group, Roma finished level on points with last placed CSKA but qualified as a result of their superior head to head record. A 7-1 home loss to Bayern Munich was the low-point of their campaign but Manchester City’s fluctuating form meant qualification was possible right until City won in Rome. As CSKA also lost in the final match, Roma had to settle for a place in the Europa League.
Now you know all the teams involved, it’s time to look at whom everyone has drawn. Going into this draw, there were a few rules, which stopped certain teams from facing each other. Ukrainian teams couldn’t draw Russian ones due to the conflict, teams couldn’t draw other teams from the same confederation and group runners up couldn’t face the winners of their groups.
The group runners up and un-seeded Champions League sides were placed into one pot, with the winners and seeded in the other. The un-seeded teams will play the first matches at home on the 19th February and the seeded teams will host the return leg on the 26th. The first pot was drawn first and then the remaining sides they could face individually selected as to avoid any rule-breaking ties. It went as smoothly as such a complicated process could be expected to and the following ties were drawn:
To do a little conclusion and early thoughts on those ties, it seems that the British teams all have tough matches. Young Boys have shown they aren’t pushovers while Inter, Beşiktaş and Fiorentina all have notable European pedigree. Tottenham will be regretting losing in Turkey, while Liverpool will be rueing the chance to progress from an easier group. The tie of the round will be played in Spain and Germany as holders Sevilla play Mönchengladbach. Other exciting ties include Wolfsburg – Sporting and PSV – Zenit.
If I had to stick my neck out, I would predict victories for Everton, Bilbao, Mönchengladbach, Wolfsburg, Ajax, AaB, Dynamo Moscow, Olympiacos, Napoli, Dynamo Kyiv, Red Bull, Roma, Zenit, Liverpool, Fiorentina and Inter Milan. Although given my prediction record, expect all the other teams to prevail.
In my next feature, I will discuss my views upon the Champions League entrants into the Europa League.