By Ajayi Ibk Ariyo
We head down to the homestretch of Europe’s second premier club competition, (The Europa League) this Thursday as teams continue their quest of reaching the last 32, whilst some have already booked their tickets.
Teams like Anderletch (C), Zenith (D), Roma (E), KRC Genk and Athletic Bilbao (F), Ajax (G), Shakhtar Donetsk (H), Shalke 04 (I), and Spartak Prague (K) have already confirmed their qualifications into the next round. Some Europe’s elites like Manchester United, Fiorentina et al are in danger of elimination, while the likes of Inter Milan and Panathinaikos have already exited the competition.
Here is the summary of Group A-F ahead of the final round of matches.
Fenerbahce currently lead the group with 10 points whilst both Manchester United and Feyenoord sit second and third on the table with 9 and 7 points respectively. Zorya are at the rear with only 2 points.
Going into the final group matches, leaders, Fenerbahce, who are in need of a point to guarantee a place in the next round, travel to Holland to face Feyenoord at De Kuip Stadium whilst already eliminated, FC Zorya, host Manchester United in a must win fixture for the Red Devils in order to confirm qualification regardless of what pans out in the other match in the group.
Manchester United won 1-0 against their Thursday night’s hosts, FC Zorya Luhansk in September.
Leaders, Apoel Nicosia require just a point to confirm their passage into the next round. The Cypriots side host second placed Olympiakos who could as well afford to share the spoils, as a draw will send both through and confirm the exit of the other 2 teams in the group.
With both BSC Young Boys and Astana sitting in third and fourth respectively on the log on 5 points each, a win for either sides still won’t guarantee progress to the next round as fate no longer lies in their hands.
Anderlecht lead the group with 11 points, and would win the group with a point at home against second placed St Etienne of France, who need a draw to cement second position.
German side, FSV Mainz 05, welcome the group’s whipping boys, FK Qarabag, to the Opel Arena with one mission in mind, to get the maximum points, as anything less than that will ultimately end their slender hope of advancing.
Zenith’s place at the top of Group D is insurmountable regardless of their result against second-placed AZ Alkmaar, who need the maximum points at home to confirm a place in the next round.
With 4 points amassed so far, both Maccabi Tel Aviv and Dundalk require nothing short of 3 points to have a slim hope of advancing as victory for either sides will still amount to nothing should AZ Alkmaar beat leaders, Zenith in Holland.
Roma have won the group already, but can still influence who joins them in the next round. The Italians visit second-placed FC Astra Giurgiu, who require all the 3 points to progress.
FC Austra Viena, who currently sit third, 2 points adrift of Astra Giurgiu, can, however, still snatch the next round ticket should the Romanian club fail to beat already eliminated Viktoria Plzen in Czech Republic and they (FC Austra) beat Roma at the Franz Horr Stadium in Austria.
This group has already been decided as both KRC Genk and Athletic Bilbao have opened up a 4-point gap between them and the other teams in the group. Both teams travel to Sassuolo and Rapid Vienna respectively.
The Full Fixtures (Group A-L)
17:00 Villarreal – Steaua Bucureşti
17:00 PAOK – Slovan Liberec
17:00 Konyaspor – KAA Gent
17:00 Osmanlıspor – Zurich
17:00 Qarabağ – Fiorentina
17:00 Sporting Braga – Shakhtar Donetsk
19:00 Young Boys – Astana
19:00 Rapid Wien – Athletic
19:00 AZ Alkmaar – Zenit
19:00 APOEL – Olympiakos Pirae.
19:00 Viktoria Plzeň – Austria Wien
19:00 Mainz 05 – FK Qabala
19:00 Zorya Luhansk – Man. Utd
19:00 FC Astra Giurgiu – Roma
19:00 Anderlecht – Saint Etienne
19:00 Sassuolo Calcio – Genk
19:00 Feyenoord – Fenerbahçe
19:00 Maccabi Tel Aviv – Dundalk
21:05 Nice – FK Krasnodar
21:05 Standard de Liè. – Ajax
21:05 Inter – Sparta Praha
21:05 Salzburg – Schalke 04
21:05 Panathinaikos – Celta
21:05 Southampton – Hapoel Be’er She.