Friday, December 18, 2020

Premier League in Europe

Draws for the next rounds of both the Champions League and Europa League were announced earlier this week.  Here is how the European competitions are shaping up for the Premier League clubs.

Champions League Draw

Three of four English teams in the competition qualified from the group stage.  Manchester United, third in its Champions League group behind PSG and RB Leipzig, now becomes part of the Europa League Round of 32.  The draw for the remaining English teams in Champions League home and away competition, resuming in February, was announced this week. 

Liverpool – Group winner Liverpool are matched next with RB Leipzig, the team which eliminated Manchester United from Champions League competition on the final day of group play.  Leipzig, currently battling Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich for the top spot in the Bundesliga, advanced to the semi-finals of last year’s Champions League before falling to PSG.  Jurgen Klopp will match wits with up-and-coming German manager Julian Nagelsmann.  The two clubs have never played before.  Liverpool’s Naby Keita is formerly of RB Leipzig.

Chelsea – Chelsea will renew acquaintance with Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, a team they faced in the 2014 Champions League semi-final.  Chelsea were undefeated during this year’s group stage, winning four and drawing two matches to finish a point ahead of second place Sevilla.  The “Mattress Makers”, second to Bayern Munich in their group, needed to defeat third place FC Salzburg on the final day of group play to advance.  Atletico is currently battling Real Madrid and surprising Real Sociedad for the La Liga title this season.

Manchester City –  Manchester City will face Borussia Monchengladbach in the Round of 16.  The German squad advanced to the Round of 16 in a tiebreaker with Shakhtar Donetsk for second place group honors behind Real Madrid.  Die Fohlen (“The Colts”), who dropped their final two group stage matches, were eighth in the Bundesliga after twelve matches this year.  Manchester City, undefeated winners of their group, registered 16 points in group competition, joint highest with Bayern Munich.

Europa League Draw

All three English teams topped their individual groups in the six-match group stage of Europa League play.  Manchester United, eliminated from the Champions League, also joins for the round of 32.  The draws for February’s two leg competitions were announced earlier this week.

Arsenal – Arsenal, wretched in the Premier League this season, won all six of its Europa group stage matches.  The Gunners now face Portuguese club Benfica, which finished second to Rangers in its group by registering three wins and three draws.  Benfica was second to Sporting in the Portuguese domestic league after nine matches.  Arsenal defender David Luiz won the 2009/10 Primeira Liga title with Benfica in 2009/10.

Leicester – Leicester draws Slavia Praha.  The Foxes were top in their group, winning four with a loss and a draw in group play.  Slavia Praha was second in its group to Bayer Leverkusen and are  defending champions and current leaders in the Czech domestic league.  West Ham’s Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal are alumni of the Czech club.  Slavia is winless in its past nine matches versus English clubs.

Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs were also winners of their group, winning four (1 loss, 1 draw) and  will face Austrian club Wolfsberger.  Wolfsberger were second in their Europa group to Dinamo Zagreb and finished ahead of better-known clubs Feyenoord and CSKA Moscow.  This is only Wolfsberger’s second Europa league campaign.

Manchester United –  Manchester United lost three of its six Champions League group stage games to drop into the Europa League draw.  The Red Devils now take on Real Sociedad in the Europa round of 32.  Real Sociedad, second to Napoli in its Europa League group, has been impressively battling for the top spot domestically in La Liga this season.  Manchester United will see a familiar face on the pitch when former Manchester City legend David Silva takes the field for Real Sociedad. 

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