Home Soccer Europa League Europa League and Conference League analyzed and highlights.

Europa League and Conference League analyzed and highlights.

Europa League and Conference League analyzed and highlights.

They may not be the continent’s blue-ribbon club competition, but both the Europa League and Conference League can be a source of serious entertainment for the clubs that play in them.

The group stage for both competitions has now taken place and clubs Liverpool, West Ham, Brighton and Aston Villa have learned their opponents in six group games over the next four months.

Against those clubs, The Athletic experts Greg Evans, Roshan Thomas, Andy Naylor and Jacob Tanswell give their thoughts on their team’s draw.

Europa League


Opponents: LASK (Austria), Union Saint-Giloise (Belgium), Toulouse (France)

First impressions of the picture

Look, this isn’t where Liverpool want to be after six consecutive seasons in the Champions League, reaching the knockout stages on each occasion, but sometimes the most memorable moments for fans are the odd and unexpected away days – and this draw certainly missed the mark. a bit.

How tough these games against LASK, Union Saint-Gilloise and Toulouse will be will depend on the strength of the teams Jurgen Klopp decides to field in these six games. Speaking about the Europa League last season, he publicly expressed his sadness at playing in the continent’s second-best club competition, saying: “We will make it our competition.

So the group stage should be something to look forward to, albeit not as exciting in terms of big-name opposition, but in the meantime, trips to Linz, Brussels and the south of France will be lucky. Get your hands on tickets.

What is the main game and why?

Liverpool will fancy their chances against all three opponents, running away from a difficult team, and in truth, there is no standout or disruptive performance.

The LASK representatives in the picture smiled as they saw Liverpool on the move and immediately recognized the quality of their opposition. USG, popularly known as UN Saint-Guillois, finished third domestically in the quarter-finals last season, but Toulouse were 13th out of 20 in Ligue 1 when they won the French Cup, so it shouldn’t be. Providing too much resistance.

Which opposition player are you most excited to see?

It will be interesting to see Kevin McAllister play alongside his brother Alexis when Liverpool face USG. Centre-back Kevin, 25, joined the Belgian side from Argentinos Juniors, the club back home where Alexis, 24, started his pro career this summer.

Which game do you like the most?

LASK is interesting off the field, not least because Linz, Austria’s third largest city, is a new destination for Liverpool but also because of the intrigue surrounding their team.

Liverpool have never played LASK so history will be made regardless. In addition, it is only the third time that the Austrian team has entered the group stage of European competition, so they will be involved – especially when they visit Anfield – and sometimes create ambiguous stories.

What should the rest of the team expect from your club?

Lots of noise around the instruments, loud playing and maybe a scattering of second string players. Liverpool will no doubt use the Europa League group stage to introduce 17-year-old winger Ben Doak and centre-back Jarell Kwansah, 20, into the league’s first team.

With the attacking talent in the squad, Klopp could name a very strong line-up if needed.

After a long spell at UEFA’s top table, relegation and the switch to playing on Thursdays may take some getting used to, but with the 2023-24 Europa League kicking off and a few weeks away, Liverpool will be victorious. He (PS: the last one is in Dublin on May 22nd).

Greg Evans

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Ben Doc (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

West Ham United

Opponents: Olympiakos (Greece), Freiburg (Germany), TSC Backa Topola (Serbia).

First impressions of the picture

West Ham have the ability and experience to advance from Group A. It is worth remembering that the East Londoners topped their Europa League group in 2021-22 and Conference League One last season, winning 10 of their 12 games.

What is the main game and why?

Their matches against Olympiakos could be tough. Having won the Greek Cup 47 times, Piraeus in the port district of Athens are regulars in European competitions and are determined to improve on last season’s Europa League group draw after failing to win a game.

Which opposition player are you most excited to see?

Matthias Ginter struggled to return to his youth at Freiburg then Borussia Dortmund. That now 29-year-old has been capped 51 times in Germany. Ginter, who joined Freiburg last summer, has been tasked with identifying Michael Antonio and company and it will be interesting to see how the centre-back copes with West Ham’s attacking threat.

Which game do you like the most?

Olympiakos. Although it will be difficult, manager David Moyes will be confident that his team will win. The group stage takes West Ham into Greece, Germany and Serbia. Moyes has often spoken of his fans’ excitement for visiting new countries as they attend European competitions – and this season will be no different.

What should the rest of the team expect from your club?

Having won the Europa League in May this year and reached the semi-finals of the Europa League a season earlier, West Ham are aiming for another successful European run. The additions of Edson Alvarez, James Ward-Prowse, Konstantinos Mavropanos and Mohamed Koudos mean they have much-needed squad depth to tackle four tournaments.

“We went to Australia (their pre-season tour) and they were talking about us winning the Conference League,” Moyes said. “It’s a big thing to be in that position, so I’m happy to get my first and I’m looking forward to getting my second – and I’m looking forward to seeing if we can get West Ham on another tour of Europe and one. It’s a success.”

Roshan Thomas

What should West Ham expect from Freiburg?

Sebastian Stafford-Bloor: They shouldn’t be underestimated. Christian Streich may be one of the most lovable characters in the Bundesliga, but he’s also the longest-serving head coach and one of the best. In the past three seasons, he has taken Freiburg from a 10th finish in 2020-21 to eighth, then fifth last May. This is a huge achievement as they have the fourth lowest wage bill in the German top flight.

The lack of significant turnover in recent years has helped to create a loyal and hard-working squad, one that uses the ball and the side well and defends to a very high standard.

Watch out for Vincenzo Griffon’s pass and Michael Grigoritsch’s movement in the penalty box. West Ham will need to do their homework on Streich’s set pieces, who are consistently among the most effective in Germany.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Opponents: Ajax (Netherlands), Marseille (France), AEK Athens (Greece)

Which game do you like the most?

AEK Athens. I’ve never been to the historic capital of Greece (I’ve never been to both Amsterdam and Marseille) so that’s another city off the list. They are also a club with a rich culture. They missed out on the group stage of the Champions League and lost 3-1 to Belgium’s Royal Antwerp in the final qualifying match.

What is the main game and why?

While it is difficult to call until the order of play is confirmed, facing Ajax will make defender Joel Veltman a 36-time Dutch champion who was a Champions League semi-finalist four years ago.

The advantage of winning the group is direct passage to the round of 16 in March – a welcome breathing space after the end of the group stage in December. A second-placed finish would mean a two-legged qualifier against a side who will end up in an already busy February schedule after finishing third in the Champions League group stage.

Overall though, Brighton’s aim is to finish in the top two.

Which opposition player are you most excited to see?

I was intrigued by the movement of July and the growth of Marseille’s Ismaila grass.

He has always been my favorite player in his four seasons in England with Watford. He scored his first goal for his new club in a 2-0 home win over Brest last Saturday.

What should the rest of the team expect from your club?

Loud fans, a show-stopping head coach and a team playing a high-risk, high-reward brand of football, the likes of which you’ve never experienced before.

Twenty-five years ago this week, Brighton were homeless and prepared in front of 2,931 fans for a fourth-tier ‘home’ game against Swansea City at Gillingham Stadium (a temporary allotment 75 miles 112km from Brighton).

In less than three weeks they will be playing in European competition for the first time and they are going to make the most of it on the field, in the stands… and more.

Andy Naylor

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(Olaf Krak/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

European Conference League

Aston Villa

Opponents: AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands), Legia Warsaw (Poland), HSK Zirinjski (Bosnia-Herzegovina).

First impressions of the picture

No matter who is in their team, Villa will have the same sense of excitement. Birmingham have sent a squad for the play-off against Monaco and should be seen as one of the favorites until at least the third-placed teams in the competition progress from the Europa League groups to the knockout stages. It looks like a well-balanced draw, with top seeds AZ having a consistent European side, while trips to Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina present different challenges. Managing a trip on a Thursday-Sunday schedule will be beneficial for coach Unai Emery.

What is the main game and why?

Both games against AZ. Win both or avoid losing both and Villa should be in a good place to make it into the knockout stages. Last season’s UEFA Coefficient ranking of the Dutch club, the semi-finalists in the world’s 38th best team, and especially in these 6 games in the field, Emery’s team can make a tough test. Along with that, going to unusual destinations – in this case Bosnia and Herzegovina – presents unseen challenges, such as managing the logistics and playing Zirinjski in a stadium with a capacity of only 9,000.

Which opposition player are you most excited to see?

AZ have Premier League old boys in Mat Ryan and Jordy Clasie, who played for Brighton and Southampton respectively, but the unheralded Jens Odegaard. The 24-year-old Dane is playing in his fourth country, including a stint with Inter Milan. He’s one of those front-runners you’ve been waiting for, hopefully, to burst into life and hit the purple patch of the talent roster.

Which game do you like the most?

Zrinjski looks cool. To a typical – almost stereotypical – Conference League side. Their stadium in the historic city of Mostar is open and protected from any bad weather, and teams like this have a mysterious feel.

What should the rest of the team expect from your club?

For Emery to take this seriously. Having won four Europa League finals against Sevilla and Villarreal in the last 10 seasons (and a fifth at Arsenal), the Villa boss knows how to field a specialist and strong squad in European competitions. Every game. In other words, he takes no prisoners.

Jacob Tanswell

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Jordi Classi (Ed van de Pol/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Mark Carey’s takeaways

Who has the best chance of winning the race?

In principle, Liverpool should be early favorites to win the 2023-24 Europa League. It was 15 months ago that Jurgen Klopp’s men appeared in the Champions League final, narrowly missing out on a seventh title with a 1-0 defeat by Real Madrid in Paris.

In Peer Opta’s power ratings (between zero and 100), Liverpool’s rating of 94.5 is the third highest in the database of 13,000 teams, showing how unusual their place in the Europa League is in the wider context of their recent success.

Liverpool may not take the competition by storm in practice as Klopp will change his squad for their group matches. No club wants to lose games in football, but the Europa League will not be a priority for Liverpool as they aim to return to the Champions League next season.

Should Premier League clubs be confident?

Brighton are on the European stage for the first time in their 121-year history, but they have nothing to fear in a group that also includes Ajax, Marseille and AEK Athens. While those three clubs have a strong history in European competition – Ajax and Marseille have both won the European Cup/Champions League – OptaPower Ratings have Roberto Di Zerbi’s team as the strongest of the four in terms of season performance, with the 20th highest overall rating in the database at 89.4.

West Ham are the same, with a rating of 88.8 the 23rd-highest in the database – ahead of any of their group rivals Olympiakos, Freiburg and TSC. The pair, who won the Conference League last season, and Moyes’ side have the experience, strength and confidence to reach the 2021-22 Europa League semi-finals.

Which player should I follow?

If you don’t know about the talents of Florian Wirtz yet, where have you been?

After struggling with injury, the German attacking midfielder reminded everyone of his talent with Bayern Munich last season – earning the Europa League Young Player of the Year award as they progressed to the semi-finals.

Florian Wirtz Chances Created 2022 23

Only Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes has created more open play opportunities (23) than Wirtz (21) – a testament to his eye for passing and executional intelligence when working between the lines.

Leverkusen’s Europa League side this time around – Azerbaijan’s Qarabag, Norway’s Molde and Sweden’s Hakken – look the most dominant, with Wirtz once again wreaking havoc on opposition backlines. At just 20 years old, an injury-free season could take the German’s potential to the next level.

(Top photos: Getty Images)