Europa League – Matchday 2 Recap

The next 24 matches have been completed in the Europa League, and they mostly went as expected, with only five road clubs coming away with victories. But there were still some surprises, and this will highlight some of those results.

These are some of the results from the second day of matches from around Europe (based on UEFA rankings heading into the match or location) that piqued our interest. We’ll also be referencing clubs’ chances to win their group or advance, and I am using the great UEFA Europa League Predictions over at FiveThirtyEight for that (so I don’t have to keep linking it in multiple spots). Home teams are listed first:

Malmo FF 2-0 Besiktas
Sarpsborg 08 3-1 Genk
I wanted to highlight both matches from Group I because they made the group the only one with all four clubs tied with three points after two matches. It also continued the trend of the home teams winning, with all four matches played thus far in the group having won by the hosting club. Nominally, Sarpsborg is leading the group because they’ve scored the most goals (yet have the lowest odds of reaching the next round per FiveThirtyEight), and Malmo is in last place because they’ve scored the fewest, but Matchday 3 should hopefully allow for some separation. Note: Sarpsborg and Besiktas are the home clubs in three weeks, soplace your bets if you think the home team trend is going to continue.
Apollon Limassol 2-2 Marseille
This draw caught my attention because of the UEFA Rankings of the clubs involved. Cypriot club Apollon is ranked 152nd, while French club Marseille is ranked 46th. Based on that alone, it should have been a struggle for Apollon to come away from the match with points, even if it was at home. It’s also strange to be talking about two clubs that are tied with one point after two matches, but it is what it is. That’s how “chalk” the results were this week. It won’t get much easier for Apollon on Matchday 3 as they have to go on the road to face off against group leader Eintracht, and a loss there could sink their chances in Group H depending on the outcome in the other match between Marseille and Lazio.

Krasnodar 2-1 Sevilla
Sevilla is the highest ranked club in the Europa League, checking in at #6 in the UEFA rankings. Krasnodar is 51st. But the Russian club defended their home pitch well – which is what your supposed to do in these tournaments – coming back from a 0-1 deficit (on an own goal no less) with two late goals. They move into the driver’s seat in Group J, and now boast the best odds of advancing further (though Sevilla is right behind them and still has better odds of winning the whole tournament). Sevilla should get back on track at home against Turkish club Akhisarspor, and they still lead the group in goal differential, which will help if it comes down to tiebreakers.

Astana 2-0 Rennes
Another club from a much lower ranked association – Kazakhstan is the 27th-ranked association – has a favorable result against a club from a higher-ranked association (France is 5th), though Astana is the higher ranked club (60th v 112th). Nevertheless, this is the type of match that a club like Astana needs to win if they want to maintain their place at the top of the Group K table, especially with a road match looming for Matchday 3.

Matchday 3 of 6 kicks off in a couple of weeks on October 25th, and all the clubs will be back in their domestic leagues looking to round into shape. The early favorite to win Europa remains English club Chelsea, in part due to their dominant performance (thus far) through five weeks of Premier League play. They are the only club currently over 10% in FiveThirtyEight’s Europa League predictor, though that will potentially change through the remaining matches in Group Play, as well as the introduction of the third place clubs from the Group Stage of the Champions League in the Round of 32.

Until next time…

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