The Europa League begins its next round in a few days, so we will be highlighting the matchups featuring either clubs with a chance to win it all or match-ups that could see either team pull out a victory and move on to the Round of 16.
While Europa League is not packed with the big names of the Champions League, there are still some high quality clubs playing for the title, and with it, an automatic berth in the Group Stage of next season’s Champions League.
How They Got Here
Lazio qualified for Europa League this season by finishing in fifth place in Serie A last season. They entered the competition during the group stage, drawn into Group H with Eintracht Frankfurt, Apollon Limassol and Marseille. They finished an uninspiring second behind the 6-0-0 Eintracht, finishing group play at 3-0-3 (two losses to Eintracht and a surprising loss to Apollon Limassol).
Sevilla finished 7th in La Liga last season and out of European competition, but because Barcelona won the Copa del Rey, the qualifying spot for the cup winner passed down to Sevilla, who entered Europa League in the second qualifying round. After defeating Újpest of Hungary, Žalgiris of Lithuania, and Sigma Olomouc of Czech Republic in qualifying, they advanced to the group stage and won Group J, winning over Krasnodar due to head-to-head goal differential.
Lazio currently finds themselves in 7th place in Serie A this season. They are tied with Atalanta and Roma with 38 points, and are on the outside looking in on European competition next season due to goal differential. However, they are only one point behind fourth place Milan, which would give them a spot in Champions League next year. They are also still alive in the Coppa Italia on the season, with a two-leg semi-final match kicking off against Milan kicking off at the end of the month. Either way, they have a bit of work to do this season in Italy if they want to return to UEFA competition next season.
Sevilla has improved on last season’s La Liga results, currently in fourth place this season and in line for a berth in Champions League next season. They are two points ahead of Getafe for the final Champions League spot, and a seemingly distant seven points behind third-place Atlético Madrid, so at a minimum, they should be planning on a return engagement in the Europa League next season.
Never Tell Me the Odds
Like their Spanish compatriot Valencia, Sevilla is an overwhelming favorite to win this Round of 32 matchup, with FiveThirtyEight giving them a 61% chance of defeating Lazio. They also have an 8% chance to win the entire competition, tying them with Valencia for fourth best odds of all clubs in the tournament. They were a bit weaker during the group stage than some of the other favorites, but the competition they face in Spain should prepare them well for at least this round of Europa League.
Lazio had a negative goal differential during the group stage, and was ultimately lucky to advance this far. Their play in Serie A has further shown that this may not be their season, though they still have a 3% chance of winning the whole thing. Thursday’s home match will be a good indicator of what could happen in this match up, and should they manage to get past Sevilla, a favorable draw in the Round of 16 could boost Lazio’s chances.
The Round of 16 in Europa League is shaping up to be dominated by La Liga clubs, with all four Spanish clubs favored in the Round of 32. Sevilla should join them, though they will need to get off to a good start against Lazio this week. They’d likely prefer that next week’s home match is one where they can rest some players for the home stretch in La Liga, instead of being a match where they need a victory to advance. I guess that’s why they ultimately play the matches on the pitch and not just rely on the simulations.
Until next time…