Europa League – Ferencváros v CSKA Moscow

The Europa League group stage resumes this week with 24 matches – one today and 23 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, the current favorite is a club that is still toiling away in Champions League, with Red Bull Salzburg having a 10% chance of winning the tournament according to FiveThirtyEight. Of the clubs currently playing in Europa League’s group stage, however, the favorite is Manchester United, and the Red Devils currently have an 8% chance of taking home the cup.

Our next preview of Thursday’s action is between two clubs that are fairly even before kickoff, though they are currently at the bottom of their group. Ferencváros looks to continue CSKA Moscow’s miserable Europa League while improving their own chances of making the Round of 32. The match kicks off from Groupama Arena in Budapest at 9:00pm CET (3:00pm EST) on Thursday night.

Like we did with our other preview earlier today, we’ll cover how things are going for the clubs back home, and recap what has happened through the first half of the group stage 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

Ferencváros was founded in 1899 and have grown into the most popular team in Hungary. They have played in the top flight of Hungarian football for all but three seasons since 1901, and have won 30 league titles, including last season. Additionally, they have finished second in 36 additional seasons, making them one of the most successful clubs in Hungary.

So far this season, they are again near the top of the table with a 7-2-1 record through 10 of 33 matches, tied with Fehérvár and Mezőkövesd with 23 points with one less match played. They are in the midst of a seven-match unbeaten streak (5-2-0), so it’s only a matter of time before they return to the top of the table and possibly repeat as champions.

CSKA Moscow was founded in 1911 and is the oldest club in Russia. They have won thirteen league titles, six of which came after the breakup of the USSR in 1991. Their last league title was during the 2015-16 season, ending a run of three titles in four seasons. Last season, they finished in fourth place, five points behind Krasnodar for third and an automatic berth in Champions League.

At the midway point of this Russian Premier League season, CSKA is currently in fifth place, eight points ahead of Arsenal Tula for an automatic spot in Europa League. However, they have not won in league play since the end of September (0-2-2), and as we will see in a moment, they’ve struggled in European play as well.

European History

Ferencváros has played in Europe in most seasons since the turn of the century, but have only once reached the group stage prior to this season. Otherwise, it has mostly been a series of one-round-and-done for the Hungarian club, like last season, when they lost in the first qualifying round of Europa League to Maccabi Tel Aviv.

As the Hungarian champion, Ferencváros began this European campaign in the Champions League first qualifying round, and defeated Ludogorets Razgrad (who are just ahead of them in the group) and Valletta before losing to Dinamo Zagreb in the third qualifying round. After defeating Sūduva in the Europa League playoff round, they were drawn into Group H and are currently in third place.

CSKA Moscow has found a bit more success in Europe, winning the UEFA Cup over Sporting CP during the 2004-05 season. As recently as two seasons ago, they reached the quarterfinals of Europa League. But last season, they qualified for the group stage in Champions League, only to finish fourth and in their European campaign by Christmas.

This season, CSKA has struggled through half of the group stage, starting with a huge loss to Ludogorets Razgrad on Matchday 1 and continuing through to this point. They have been outscored 8-1 through three matches, and have they have not scored since the 11th minute of that Matchday 1 loss.

This Matchup

This will be the third match between the clubs in Europe, with the clubs splitting the previous two and each scoring three goals. But Ferencváros got the win three weeks ago in Moscow and has to feel pretty good about their chances with the action shifting to Budapest.

Nevertheless, the experts at FiveThirtyEight give a very narrow edge to the visitors, giving CSKA a 37% chance of winning, while Ferencváros has a 34% chance of winning. It is tied as the closest match of the day based on that 3% spread (joining our first previewed match today), and should be an exciting match, with the visiting club fighting for their lives and the home club trying to move into advancement position.

Overall, the chances are that neither of these clubs will be playing in the next round. Winless CSKA has only a 2% chance of advancing to the next round, and they would have to win their remaining three matches to have any chance. Ferencváros has better odds (21%), though both clubs ahead of them are over 85%. An “upset” win against CSKA Moscow would be a solid first step in including their chances, and if things go as expected in the other match in Group H, they would move into second place with a match looming against Espanyol on Thanksgiving.

Until next time…

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