Who Can We Draw In The Europa League? by Dan Smith
At 12pm noon Arsenal will find out who they will be facing in the knockout stages of the Europa League. I think it’s safe to say our chances of finishing in the top 4 are over, meaning we will have to win this competition to qualify for the Champions League.
That seems unlikely at the moment, but lots of things can change by the time the tournament resumes. I still maintain with the luck of the draw; you can get to the latter stages without having to face anyone fantastic.
I have taken some time to properly research the possible 15 teams that might come out of the hat as well as considering what their situation might be in their respective countries regarding COVID.
Something to enjoy while waiting for the draw….
Here I have given my view on who we might draw in the next round of the Europa League.
A classic example perhaps of how a team looks now, maybe looking different in February. Some have got carried away with Sociedad’s start in La Liga, predicting they can be title contenders due to Real Madrid and Barcelona being in transition. They currently sit in 2nd, a point behind Atletico but it’s their style of football that’s most impressive.
If Arsenal played them tomorrow, they would be favourites.
You could argue they deserve to be in the Champions League. When France voided the season due to COVID-19, Lille were a point away from the Champions League places with 10 fixtures still remaining. They finished runners up in one of the trickier Europa groups and are currently keeping pace with PSG in Ligue one.
Like most French clubs though outside the capital, zero Football since March hurt the likes of Lille financially, cashing in on Gabriel and Osimhein.
The most successful club in the history of Portugal. Runners up in the Primera Liga. Under pressure to have a decent run in UEFA secondary competition having failed to beat PAOK to qualify for the Champions League.
So like us, they have pressure off fans to do well in this competition as already under ridicule for European failures. They drew home and away to Rangers which suggests Arsenal could challenge their defence.
As things stand most stadiums in the country are allowed to be 10 per cent full
Despite qualifying by finishing 7th in La Liga, this is some fairy tale. Have mostly played in the Spanish lower divisions, promoted only as recent as 2019. They have never won a major trophy, and this is their first adventure into Europe. The only disappointment obviously is they can’t share it with their fans who in the last 15 years have been as far as the third tier of Spanish Football to now Europe. Still though, a team who finished 7th in La Liga must be fairly decent? They beat Barcelona at home!
Have slowly made progress in the past decade in trying to break up Portugal’s ‘big three’, last season finishing third and beating Porto in the Cup Final. They would be underdogs against us but thrive in that role. They conceded 7 goals home / away to Leicester
Red Bull Salzburg
Since their controversial re-branding they have dominated Austrian football in the last decade winning 7 consecutive titles. Now they are trying to translate their domestic form onto the European stage and have earned a reputation for the young talent they produce.
Since the 2005 Red Bull takeover, the last two years were their first in the Champions Group stages. Both times did not disgrace themselves, finishing 3rd to Liverpool and Napoli and this year Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid.
At this level though, they have beaten Celtic, Dortmund, Napoli, Lazio and Marseille. So on their day……
The team that knocked us out last year. Why that hurt so much was we had done the hard part by winning in Greece. In theory our players should learn from that experience and not take them lightly again, no matter the 1st leg result.
In theory it would be easier as the idea that by February thousands of away fans will be allowed inside the Emirates, isn’t going to happen this year. My parents live in Corfu and tell me the country is struggling to get COVID-19 numbers down. Without their fans, it’s an easier tie.
Red Star Belgrade
A second-string Arsenal won 1-0 in Belgrade when we met in the group stages in 2017. The hardest part of beating them over two legs will be the Red Star fans who proudly see the Marakana as one of the most intimidating venues in Europe. The less fans the easier the first leg
They did have 10,000 fans at their last game, the maximum based on UEFA regulations- which of course could increase or decrease in the next few months.
The inconvenience would be heading to Russia in February, in between two Premiership games.
Only formed in 2008, being involved in the Champions’ League group stages for the first time was a landmark, and this will only be the second time they are in Europe post-Christmas, so getting past this round would be their best performance in UEFA competition ever. They did beat Rennes so are capable.
This round of the Europa League takes place during the Russian December to March winter break, so you can argue if that’s an advantage or disadvantage to the team.
Again Arsenal would want to avoid this tie purely for travel, with a trip to Ukraine in the middle of a hectic schedule not ideal.
Kiev are losing their dominance to Donetsk, finishing 33 points behind them in the title race. They started their European campaign with fans allowed inside their stadium but a record jump in COVID-19 cases saw fans again banned from venues. Like everywhere else, what 2021 looks like is not known.
The Current champions of the Czech Republic. Under the current owners, who saved them from going bankrupt, they have made small strides in Europe. Last year was only their second ever appearance in the Champions’ League group stages, while this is only their second time they have qualified this far in the Europa League.
They don’t travel well.
A Belgian club enjoying a brief spell out of Club Bruges shadow. They have had a fantastic journey in the last few years, promoted back to the top flight in 2017 after 13 years away.
Last year’s cup success was their first trophy in 30 years, and this is their first European campaign since 1995. They did beat Spurs in the group stages at home but that was Jose’s second string.
Have won the last three titles in Switzerland having waited 32 years. In Europe though they have mostly struggled at this level, the first time in 6 seasons their campaign has gone beyond Christmas. It would be massive upset for Arsenal to lose to them over two legs
Maccabi Tel Aviv
Like Israeli football in general, it’s making strides. The country has invested a lot of money into youth football. This is Tel Aviv’s only second time they have got this far in the Europa League.
Results include holding Villarreal, but without question beating Arsenal over two legs would be the biggest result in their history.
Hard to really give you an English equivalent. (This team is Austrian, don’t get confused with the German side) Imagine a team who for the majority of their existence just hang around League One and 2. Then in 2007 they decided to work together with their city rivals, before merging into one mega club. Have never won a major honour and this is only their 4th European campaign, and have never got this far. It is no exaggeration this is their golden period…
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