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
Rapid qualified for this season’s Europa League by virtue of their third place finish in the Austrian Football Bundesliga last season. They entered the tournament in the third qualifying round, where they defeated Slovakian club Slovan Bratislava, before advancing to the playoff round where they defeated Romanian club FCSB to advance to the group stage. They finished tied with Villarreal at the top of Group G, with the Spanish club claiming first place by virtue of their head-to-head points over Rapid.
Like their compatriot Napoli, Inter entered Matchday 6 of the Champions League group stage with a chance to advance to the Round of 16, only to draw against PSV Eindhoven, the last place club in Group B. By virtue of Tottenham Hotspur’s draw with Barcelona, the Spurs and Inter both finished with eight points, with the Spurs advancing on the head-to-head away goals tiebreaker.
Rapid has fallen a bit in the Austrian Bundesliga from where they finished last season, and are currently in 8th place (out of 12 teams). They are, however, still alive in the Austrian Cup, and should they win that competition, they would qualify for placement in the group stage of next season’s Europa League.
Inter is currently a distant third behind Napoli in Serie A, and should they maintain that position, they would again qualify for Champions League next season. Unless they win this competition, that will be their only chance for international play next season, as they have already been eliminated from the Coppa Italia, which would have served as a backup route to at least Europa League.
Never Tell Me the Odds
Perhaps because of Rapid’s poor performance in league play this season – and they didn’ exactly light the world on fire during the group stage either – Inter is an overwhleming favorite in this matchup. In fact, FiveThirtyEight has determined that this is the most lopsided matchup in the Round of 32, giving the Italians a 96% chance of advancing onward. This has probably also boosted Inter’s odds to win the final (third-best odds at 10%), though a trying draw for the next round (should they avoid the dramatic upset) could change that.
Until next time…