Hopefully by the time the competition resumes in February we will have a permanent manager and our confidence will be a bit higher.
Winning the Europa League is our most realistic way of qualifying for the Champions League, and I still maintain at this level we are capable of beating any side if we are at our best.
You do need luck to win any trophy though and that includes the draw being kind to you.
It shows how far we have fallen over the years that we only now focus on the Champions League to see who finishes third, meaning they drop down and could be possible opponents in the knockout stages.
A quick glance and it shouldn’t be as daunting as us having to face Atletico Madrid or Napoli, but let’s observe each group to see who might join us in the last 32 of the Europa….
Group A – Not surprising given that they were drawn with PSG and Real Madrid neither Club Bruges nor Galatasaray have yet to win in Europe but obviously would not be facing that level of side in Europe’s secondary competition.
It’s likely that will continue on match day 6, with the Turkish side in Paris and Bruges hosting Real (Bruges start a point ahead). I’d rather not the intimidating trip to Istanbul so will be hoping Galatasaray lose.
Group B – Simple! Olympiakos have to beat Red Star Belgrade or the home side finish third. We have faced both over the years and should have too much for either over two legs.
Group C- Because of Man City’s dominance in this group, 3 sides could finish anywhere from 2nd to bottom. It’s in Shakhtar’s hands, if they win they’re through, which means Zagreb (who will hoping Pep Guardiola rests key players) would finish third no matter what they do. Atalanta have to win in Ukraine and hope City do them a favour. The Italians can finish runners up or last but not 3rd.
Group D – Okay there is still a chance Atletico Madrid could be added to this tournament at which point they would be immediate favourites. However, it takes a couple of huge upsets. The Spaniards would have to fail to beat Lokomotiv Moscow at home and even if that were to transpire, Bayern Leverkusen would have to win at Juventus. The Italians might not play their strongest line up, however.
Group E – It’s not out of the realms of possibility that we could face Liverpool in the knockout stages, although I can’t imagine Klopp would take this trophy seriously, being top of the Premiership. The Reds need to avoid defeat in Salzburg but it’s worth pointing out their away form in Europe doesn’t match what we see from them domestically. If the upset happens only Genk wining in Napoli would save Liverpool.
Group F – As the group of death we had to accept an elite side were going to join us in the Europa League. At the moment it will be Dortmund who need to better Inter Milan’s result. It’s in the Italian’s hands but the Germans have the easier fixture on paper. They are at home to Slavia Prague, so say if they won, Conte’s men would need 3 points at the Nou Camp. Barca might not play their best team. Whether it’s Dortmund or Inter, we would want to avoid both.
Group G – Real simple… Lyon have to win at home to RB Leipzig (already qualified) and better Zenit’s result away at Benfica (already eliminated). Benfica have to beat Zenit to have outside hopes of staying in Europe.
Group H – On paper was always going to be a competitive group and 3 sides could still advance or fall down to the Europa. If Chelsea fail to beat Lille they will have to try and defend their trophy they won in Baku. A Chelsea win and we are guaranteed to have new Europa League winners, a draw only works for Lampard if Ajax beat Valencia, but Ajax only need a draw. Valencia are through if they beat Ajax. So, everyone’s fate is in their own hands.
Who would you not want to drop down from the Champion’s League?