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 G-L ahead of the final round of matches.
Ajax are already the winners of the group whilst Panathinaikos are out but both still have so much contributions to offer this group as both Standard Liege and Celta Vigo, who currently occupy the second and third positions with 5 points each, would need a favour from their respective opponents.
Standard Liege host Ajax in Belgium while Panathinaikos, who have nothing to play for except for pride, after recording only a point in their 5 matches in the group, welcome Celta Vigo to Greece.
Shakhtar Donetsk’s perfect record after five games puts them through in first place regardless of the result against second-placed FC Sporting Braga of Portugal who are on six points.
AA Gent, who travel to Turkey to face already out Konyaspor are a point adrift of Braga and would require a victory in Turkey to have any hope of finishing in second place, as a win for Braga in Portugal against Shakhtar will ultimately send the Portuguese side into the next round and condemn Gent to elimination.
Just like Shakhtar Donetsk in Group H, Shalke 04 is one of the 3 teams to have recorded maximum points so far in this Competition. The Germans have not been doing so well domestically but have been brilliant so far in the Europa League.
Kransnodar, in second place, will be aiming to grind out the needed result at home against Shalke 04 as anything aside of victory could see them conceding the second spot they currently occupy to Salzburg who travel to France to face the already eliminated Nice.
This is one of the two intriguing groups which the leaders could still be eliminated. Fiorentina, who sit atop with 10 points, travel to second placed FC Qarabag, who are tied on 7 points with third placed PAOK Salonika of Greece.
The Greek club travel to Czech Republic to face Slovan Liberec whose 4 points means they can’t go any further in the competition irrespective of the outcome of their game.
Unlike Sloven Liberec, Spartak Prague, who is another club hoisting the Czech Republic’s flag in the competition, are the runaway winners in this group on 12 points.
The leaders visit the disappointing and already eliminated Inter Milan of Italy while the titanic clash of the group will happen in England as Southampton, who are hoping to put behind them their 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace in the EPL over the weekend, welcome third placed Hapoel Be’er-Sheva to St Mary’s Stadium in a match that will decide who finish in second place behind Spartak Prague.
Both Southampton and Hapoel are tied on 7 points but Southampton currently sit second courtesy of superior goals difference. The Saints need just a goalless draw to send them through to the round of 32 but a score draw of any type will see Hapoel snatching the second spot as the first meeting between the two clubs in September ended 0-0.
This is the closest group of all the groups in which things will go down the wire as any 2 of the 4 teams can book their place in the next round vice versa with only a point currently separating all the four teams in the group.
Both Osmanlispor and Villareal have their destinies in their own hands, as both have the advantage of welcoming their respective opponents to their grounds. Leaders, Osmanlispor, host Steaua Bucharesti while Yellow Submarine, Villareal, entertain FC Zurich in Spain.
The Full Fixtures (Group G-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.