We have completed five matches in the group stage of Europa League, and over half of the participants (13 of 24) for the knockout stage have secured their advancement:
- Bayer Leverkusen leads Group A with 10 points (goal differential of +3), ahead of…
- Zürich because Zurich only has 9 points after losing yesterday 🙁
- Red Bull Salzburg has clinched first place in Group B (tends to happen when you win the first five matches)
- Zenit Saint Petersburg has clinched first place in Group C because the other three clubs can’t surpass their 11 points
- Dinamo Zagreb and Fenerbahçe are #1 and #2 from Group D
- Same goes for Arsenal and Sporting CP in Group E
- Real Betis will be no worse than second in Group F
- Eintracht Frankfurt clinched first in Group H (another 5-0-0 club), while…
- Lazio settles into second from the same group, unable to catch the German club
- Dynamo Kyiv clinched first in Group K because they are three points up on Astana and own the tiebreaker, and…
- Chelsea, remains the favorite in the entire tournament, clinching first in Group L with a 5-0-0 record
That means that there are three groups – Groups G, I, and J – that don’t have anyone through as of yet and have 11 clubs (sorry Arkhisarspor) between them that can qualify for the knockout stage with a favorable result in two weeks on Matchday 6.
We’ll be back before Matchday 6 to lay out the various scenarios, but for today, we’ll highlight a few of the matches that happened yesterday that helped set up some of the craziness that will occur on 13 December. Home clubs are listed first:
Rapid Wien jumped into the fray in Group G with a come from behind win on the road in Moscow. They entered Matchday 5 fourth in the group, and needed at least a draw to keep themselves in the hunt. Instead, they have all but forced the two road clubs – Spartak Moscow and Rangers – to win on Matchday 6 in order to make it through to the next round. Meanwhile, in the other Group G match…
A win for Villarreal would have clinched a spot in the knockout stage for the Spanish club, while all but eliminating the Rangers from contention, as Spartak Moscow holds the tiebreaker over them. Instead, by defending Ibrox Stadium against the nominal favorite in the group, the Rangers will have a chance to advance to the knockout stage in a meaningful Matchday 6 for them. Very exciting!
Like Rapid Wien above, Beşiktaş saved their tournament life with their own comeback victory in Norway. Sarpsborg 08 was up 2-nil less than seven minutes into the match, and Beşiktaş had to think they would be joining fellow Turkish club Akhisarspor at home. But three second half goals, including one in the 90th minute, gives them a home match to seal advancement into the knockout stage. Amazing!
With Genk playing to role of Villarreal in Group I, Malmö FF kept themselves alive as well, also coming back to force a draw at home (no 90th minute winning goal unfortunately). Genk will still have an advantage in advancing in the next match, but they will be facing Sarpsborg, a club they lost to the first time that they played. Group I has been my favorite group to watch in this tournament and it will be going down to the wire!
Group J doesn’t yet have a participant in the knockout round, but they have perhaps the premiere matchup of Matchday 6, so we’ll talk about that in a couple of weeks. Also, when Matchday 6 kicks off in 13 December, we’ll know the other five participants in the knockout stage, joining Club Brugge, Valencia, and Benfica over from Champions League. Will their be a surprising team that finishes third there that knocks Chelsea off their perch as the favorite? I guess we’ll find out!
Until next time…
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