English Sides Solid While French Clubs Falter
Finishing off the opening matchday of this year’s UEFA Europa League Group Stage, clubs across Europe have begun to put themselves into position for either success or failure. However, there is still a long way to go as many know. With five more matches to come before the knockout stage is set, things could still change.
Despite that, the competition’s favourites have, for the most part, put themselves in a solid position following their opening European matches. While there are definitely a few exceptions to that rule (we’re looking at you, French clubs) clubs from the upper echelon of Europe have established themselves as the top sides in their respective groups. To talk more about that, let’s get back to business and take a look at our Europa League Round-Up.
UEFA Europa League Round-Up
Ludogorets Razgrad 2-3 Bayer Leverkusen
AEK Larnaca 0-1 FC Zürich
Despite trailing 2-0 at one point, German side Bayer Leverkusen managed to create a second half comeback and earn a 3-2 victory in Bulgaria against Ludogorets Razgrad. Besides this, co-group favourite Zurich would earn a 1-0 victory on the road in Cyprus to place them second in the group. While the two lower sides should provide some competition going forward, both Zurich and Leverkusen have already established themselves as the best sides in Group A.
Celtic 1-0 Rosenborg
RB Leipzig 2-3 RB Salzburg
Possibly the best-known group top to bottom, Group B’s opening matchday was highlighted both by the battle of the Red Bull-backed clubs while also featuring Scottish giants Celtic as they hosted Norwegian side Rosenborg. Overall, while Celtic did earn a 1-0 victory over the lesser Norwegian club, the highlight of Group B’s matches had to be Salzburg’s 3-2 victory on the road against Leipzig. The result proves that while Celtic are the best-known club in the group, they are clearly not the favourites to progress to the knockout rounds.
Slavia Prague 1-0 Bordeaux
Copenhagen 1-1 Zenit
While the competition favourites cruised to victory on the opening matchday of the Europa League, this did not apply to Group C. With group favourites Zenit and Bordeaux both opening their continental campaigns on the road, both clubs struggled to earn a result. However, while Zenit did manage to earn a point after they allowed an equalizing strike in the second half, French club Bordeaux struggled mightily. Conceding a first half goal, the French side only managed to record a single shot on goal during the whole game while also earning just a single corner. Nowhere near good enough for victory in this match and nowhere near good enough to proceed into the knockout phases of the competition.
Spartak Trnava 4-1 Anderlecht
Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 Fenerbahçe
A pretty evenly-strengthened group, Group D is one that could clearly go many different ways. Because of that, it may be of little surprise how much playing at home has already proven to matter in this group. With both home clubs earning wins over better-known competition, Spartak Trnava and Dinamo Zagreb have gotten themselves off to the starts that they needed. While it still questionable about how long their success will last, both the Slovak and Croatian side have put themselves in a good position after the opening matchday.
Arsenal 4-2 Vorskla Poltava
Sporting Lisbon 2-0 Qarabağ
Featuring our first of two English clubs in the Europa League Group Stage, Arsenal cruised to a 4-2 victory over Ukrainian side Vorskla Poltava. However, one worrying sign for most Gunner’s supporters will be the two goals that they conceded late on in the match. Also of note in this group was co-favorite Sporting Lisbon’s 2-0 home win over Qarabağ. Without a doubt, Lisbon and Arsenal are the top two teams in this group, making their upcoming match on October 25th even more important.
Olympiakos 0-0 Real Betis
F91 Dudelange 0-1 AC Milan
Group F features potentially the most evenly matched top three teams. Featuring AC Milan, Olympiakos and Real Betis, Group F is definitely one that could go many different ways. For the most part, this makes their matches against the fourth club in the group, F91 Dudelange, even more important. Thankfully for AC Milan, a second half strike proved to be good enough to earn the Italian club the full three points. The other match from this group was a bore 0-0 draw between Olympiakos and Real Betis. While a point each is good for this match, the result definitely puts them behind the eight-ball early on in this competition.
Rapid Wien 2-0 Spartak Moscow
Villarreal 2-2 Rangers
One of the world’s most famous clubs, Rangers have finally made their return to the group stage of a continental competition. Earning their way through qualifiers, Rangers marked their return to the Europa League Group Stage in some style, coming back from a goal down twice to earn a draw in Spain against Villarreal. Also on deck in this group was Austrian side Rapid Wien earning a 2-0 win over Spartak Moscow, capping off a continental week to forget for Russian-based clubs.
Lazio 2-1 Apollon Limassol
Marseille 1-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Another group featuring three sides close together in terms of skill and talent, Group H is currently being topped by both Italian side Lazio and German side Eintracht Frankfurt. However, while both these teams will be happy to have begun their European campaigns with victories, one club that will be disappointed is French club Marseille. Suffering a 2-1 defeat at home to Frankfurt, Marseille is now clearly behind the eight-ball and will need to find a way to rebound in the upcoming matchday if they want any chance to keep up with both Frankfurt and Lazio.
Genk 2-0 Malmö FF
Beşiktaş 3-1 Sarpsborg
Earning a 3-1 victory in their opening match of the Europa League, Turkish giant Beşiktaş opened their continental campaign in extremely strong fashion. The clear favorite in this group, Beşiktaş has definitely begun to establish themselves as the top side in Group I. Also of note here was KRC Genk’s 2-0 home victory over Swedish club Malmo FF. Considering that both Genk and Malmo should be involved in the race for the final qualifying spot from the group, this result could be of great importance for Genk as we proceed through the group stage.
Akhisarspor 0-1 Krasnodar
Sevilla 5-1 Standard Liège
A five-time winner of the UEFA Europa League, Sevilla return to the competition’s group stage after spending the last two seasons playing exclusively in the UEFA Champions League. An early favourite to not only win the group but also the whole competition, Sevilla flexed their muscles early as they thrashed belgian side Standard Liege 5-1. Also of note in this group was Russian club Krasnodar’s 1-0 victory over turkish side Akhisarspor, setting them up for a potential run at second place in Group J.
Dynamo Kyiv 2-2 Astana
Rennes 2-1 Jablonec
One of the lesser known groups in the entire competition, Group K presents a real mystery. Despite this, early results in this competition will put you in a solid position going forward. This makes Rennes’ 2-1 victory over Czech side Jablonec even more important. Also improving the importance of that victory is the fact that Dynamo Kyiv and Astana drew 2-2 on the opening matchday, putting the French club alone at the top of Group K.
PAOK 0-1 Chelsea
MOL Vidi 0-2 BATE Borisov
Anchored by English giants Chelsea, Group L looks to be a two-horse race for the top two spots. Chelsea, of course, are the easy bet to top the group, especially after their 1-0 win over Greek side PAOK. PAOK have to be the second favourite in the group and should rebound in the coming match days following their loss. Of course, another club to watch will be Belarusian side BATE Borisov who defeated MOL Vidi 2-0 and put themselves into a position to challenge PAOK for the final qualifying spot from this group.