Europa League – Matchday 6 Scenarios (Part 1)

The final day of the Europa League group stage is here, and we have five of the 12 groups unsettled at the top, with three groups that are still looking for both participants in the knockout phase. 23 clubs enter Matchday 6 playing for 11 remaining spots, attempting to join the 13 clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Zenit Saint Petersburg, Dynamo Kyiv, Red Bull Salzburg, Lazio, Sporting CP, Fenerbahce, Real Betis, Dinamo Zagreb, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Zurich – that have already clinched advancement.

Why Winning the Group Matters

For the groups still left to be completely decided, it is in the clubs’ best interest to finish in first place if possible. As a refresher, the knockout phase of Europa League features the first and second place clubs from each of the 12 groups – plus the eight third-place teams from Champions League. Clubs are drawn against each other for two legs (with clubs from the same association unable to face each other), with the group winners and the top four third-place teams seeded for the draw.

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Europa League – Matchday 1 Recap

The first 24 matches have been completed in the Europa League, and they mostly went as expected. But there were still some surprises, and this will highlight some of those results. Here are some of the more shocking results of the first round of matches from around Europe (based on UEFA rankings heading into the match or location). I’ll also be referencing clubs’ chances to win their group or advance, and I am using the great UEFA Europa League Predictions over at FiveThirtyEight for that (so I don’t have to keep linking it in multiple spots). Home teams are listed first:

Slavia Prague 1-0 Bordeaux
Slavia Prague entered their opening match against French club Bordeux as the 153rd ranked club according to UEFA. Bordeaux, the sixth place club from Ligue 1, was ranked 115th. Not a huge discrepancy, and not the largest gap of any of these matches profiled today. Nevertheless, the result was fairly shocking, even if it didn’t have a huge impact on Prague reaching the Round of 32 (27% per FiveThirtyEight) nor winning the group outright (8%). In match 2, Prague faces off against Zenit Saint Petersburg in Russia, the nominal best club in the group (ranked 16th by UEFA), so it remains to be seen if they remain in the top position for much longer.

Spartak Trnava 1-0 Anderlecht
Group D was the only group that saw its top two clubs (according to UEFA rankings) lose, and both winning teams took advantage of a home pitch advantage to do so. The first matchup saw Spartak Trnava, the lone club from Slovakia to make it to the Group Stage, defeat Anderlecht of Belgium. Trnava entered the match ranked 282nd according to UEFA, while Anderlecht was the 33rd ranked team. Anderlecht also joined Europa at the Group Stage, while Trnava had to make it through the play-off round after losing in the third qualifying round of the Champions League (to one of our favorite Small Clubs Red Star Belgrade). Despite the upset, however, Trnava remains the least favored club from the group to advance on to the round of 32, so a strong showing in its Matchday 2 matchup at Fenerbahçe will be important. But the Turkish club will also be looking for a win because…

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