The Europa League group stage resumes this week with 24 matches on Thursday all over Europe. We aren’t going to cover them all, instead focusing on four matches that have been viewed as closer than others according to various prognosticators, or feature clubs that we are following for other reasons.
At the moment, Manchester United remains the favorite to win the tournament overall, with an 8% chance of taking home the cup. However, with eight third-place clubs from Champions League entering the fray in the knockout round, a new favorite could emerge from that group. For example, Liverpool is one of three clubs with a 6% chance of winning Europa League, even though they are currently favored to win their Champions League group.
There are three matches tomorrow where the difference between the expected results is less than 10%, so we’ll cover those ones first, as well as an additional match that features two clubs battling at the top of their group after dominating performances in Matchday 1. Up next is the match at the bottom of Group K, with Beşiktaş playing hosts to Wolverhampton Wanderers. The match kicks off from Vodafone Park in Istanbul at 6:55pm local time (12:55pm EST) on Thursday.
Like we did in our other previews, we’ll cover how things are going for the clubs back home, and recap what happened on Matchday 1 for both clubs. We’ll wrap up with a look at the history between the two clubs – if they have any – and what the odds look like for the match and beyond.
Without further ado, here’s a look at the clubs:
Domestic League Performance
Beşiktaş is one of the most successful clubs in Turkey, having never been relegated to a lower division. They have won the Turkish Super League on 15 occasions, with their last title coming during the 2016-17 season. They also have an additional 14 runners-up finishes, though the last came in 2006-07. Last season, they finished in third place, two points behind İstanbul Başakşehir for second place and an automatic spot in Champions League.
So far this season, they are off to a pretty slow start, leading the relegation zone in 16th place with a 1-2-3 record through six matches. They are in the midst of a four match winless streak (0-2-2), though their won win this season did occur at home, so at least they have that going for them at the moment.
We covered the Wolves Premier League history in our preview for their Matchday 1 tilt against Braga, so feel free to go check that out. Since that match on 19 September, they have finally notched their first win on the season – a 2-0 victory against Watford last weekend – and have moved out of the relegation zone to 13th place with seven points (1-4-2). However, they have the pleasure of following up their trip to Turkey with one to Manchester City, so their short two-match unbeaten streak could be over by the weekend.
While Beşiktaş qualified directly for the group stage, Wolverhampton Wanderers had to go through three rounds of qualifying, which we covered in their Matchday 1 preview mentioned above.
Due to their success domestically, Beşiktaş is pretty much an annual participant in UEFA competitions, with their last absence occurring during the 2012-13 season. Last season, they began in the second qualifying round and progressed through to the group stage, finishing third in their group. They have twice reached the quarterfinals in Europa League, the last time coming in 2016-17, when they were dispatched by Olympique Lyonnais on penalties. On Matchday 1, they led 2-1 at halftime over Slovan Bratislava, only to surrender three second half goals and lose 4-2 in Slovkia. The loss dropped them to last place in the group.
The Wolves were favored heading into their matchup against Braga three weeks ago, but they were undone by a goal in the 71st minute by Ricardo Horta. They were the only one of the three English clubs to lose on Matchday 1 in Europa League, and are currently in third place in Group K by goal differential.
Not surprisingly, these clubs have never met in European competition due to Wolverhampton Wanderers’ long absence from European competition. Beşiktaş has played 20 matches against English clubs, however, with a not great 6-5-9 record (-16 goal differential). On the other sideline, this will be the Wolves first visit to Turkey in their history.
Surprisingly, the Wolves are favored in the match according to FiveThirtyEight, winning 42% of the time, with the home club given a 33% chance to win. The Wolves remain in the driver seat to advance to the knockout stage despite their current table position, given a 67% chance to do so at the moment. Beşiktaş isn’t quite eliminated, but they currently have only a 29% chance of advancing, and will have three matches remaining against the top two clubs – Braga and Wolves – after Thursday’s action.
I’m hoping that the Wolves will revert to their form from the qualification rounds, where they went 6-0-0 with a +15 goal differential. The win back home against Watford should give them confidence, and hopefully they are not looking ahead to the match this weekend against Manchester City. I would expect that they will find themselves in second place in the group when all is said and done Thursday and further increase their odds of reaching the knockout stage.
Until next time…