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.
Our next matchup features Ukrainian squad FC Shakhtar Donetsk, who will be playing host to Eintracht Frankfurt at (their temporary home) Metalist Stadium on 14 February 2019 at 8:00pm GMT (3:00pm EST).
How They Got Here
Shakhtar Donestsk qualified for European competition by winning the Ukrainian Premier League last season, advancing directly to the Champions League. They were drawn into Group F with Manchester City, Lyon, and 1899 Hoffenheim, and entered Matchday 6 needing a “home” win against Lyon to advance to the Round of 16. Despite taking a first half lead, they could not hold on for the victory, instead drawing 1-1 and claiming a spot in Europa League. As the 7th-best 3rd place club coming over from Champions League, they were unseeded in the draw.
Eintracht qualified directly for the Eauropa League Group Stage after winning last season’s DFB-Pokal, Germany’s domestic cup. (They finished 8th in the Bundesliga last season). The were drawn into Group H and didn’t lose or draw a match, going 6-0-0 over Lazio, Apollon Limassol, and Marseille.
Shakhtar currently leads the Ukrainian Premier League by seven points over Dynamo Kyiv. With four matches left in the “regular” season, they’ve already clinched a spot in the Championship round (the last 10 matches of the season) and are all but guaranteed a return to European competition next season. This is despite playing all of their “home” matches away from Donetsk, as war conditions in Eastern Ukraine have made it impossible to play in their home stadium.
Eintracht is currently in fifth place in the Bundesliga, 17 points behind league leader Borussia Dortmund. League placement will determine if they will be playing in UEFA competitions next season, as they have been eliminated from the DFB-Pokal this season. If they can maintain their current spot in the standings, they would again advance to the Europa League Group Stage next season. However, they are only five points behind RB Leipzig for 4th place, which would give them one of Germany’s spots in the Champions League Group Stage next season.
Never Tell Me the Odds
This matchup is about as close to a toss-up as you can get. Per FiveThirtyEight, Shakhtar is a slight favorite to advance to the Round of 16 with a 55% chance of victory. The Miners also have the best shot of winning the whole thing (though it’s only 3% versus 2% for Eintracht). Depending on the teams’ performance over the next two weeks, as well as the winner’s draw for the next round, those odds could change, and we’ll take a look at the advancing team’s chances after the second leg of the matchup next week.
Honestly, Shakhtar’s whole season should be receiving more notice due to the strife they’ve been going through in Ukraine. While they would obviously like to be still playing in the Champions League, continuing on in the Europa League would be reward enough. Eintracht likely feels the same, and as the seeded team in this match up will have the benefit of hosting the second leg match next week.
Though Shakhtar is favored in this matchup, that could change if they do not manage to win at “home” on Thursday, especially with away goals being the primary tiebreaker. They haven’t lost at home in league play this season (and only lost to Manchester City at home during Champions League), so I like their chances. We’ll be sure to check in with the plucky club from Ukraine early next week to see if they’ve increased their chances to advance (and win).
Until next time…