Friday, December 15, 2023

Premier League In Europe

Manchester United and Newcastle are out of European football entirely after losses in Champions League play this week. Both clubs finished last in their group, the first time that two Premier League clubs have finished bottom of their Champions League qualifying group in the same season. A 70th minute goal by Kingsley Coman proved the winner in Bayern Munich’s 1-0 defeat of Manchester United as the Premier League side lost for the fourth time in its six group matches. The Red Devils went meekly, managing just a single shot on target. Injury was also added to insult as Harry Maguire sustained a groin injury which will cause him to miss this weekend’s Premier League match versus Liverpool. Newcastle secured last place in its group with a 2-1 come from ahead loss at St. James Park to AC Milan. Following a first half which saw a Joelinton goal give the Magpies a lead and qualification hope, Cristian Pulisic scored the equalizer for the Italian side in the 59th minute, assisted by former Chelsea teammate Olivier Giroud. AC Milan’s Samuel Chukwueze’s 84th minute goal then secured a Europa League playoff berth for AC Milan and knocked Newcastle out of Europe entirely.

Arsenal and Manchester City had already clinched the top spot in their groups before this week’s matches which saw the Gunners share points with PSV 1-1 and Manchester City defeat Crvena Zvezda 3-2. The draw for the knockout stage of the Champions League for the surviving 16 teams is on Monday, December 18th. A lot rides on the future progression of Arsenal and Manchester City for their Premier League brethren as well as themselves.

A fifth qualification spot is available to two of the top five European domestic leagues for next year’s competition. The award of the spots will be predicated on this year’s European performance. The early elimination of Manchester United and Newcastle means the Bundesliga and Serie A are first in line right now for those additional qualification berths. While counting less in the formula, the Premier League’s performance in the lesser European competitions can also help the cause to secure an additional Champions League berth for the league.

Brighton and West Ham clinched the top spots in their Europa League qualification groups with wins on Thursday. Joao Pedro scored the winner in in the 88th minute to defeat Marseille and allow the Seagulls to avoid a two-leg playoff with a club descending from the Champions League. That fate now falls to second place Marseilles. The scenario was the same with West Ham’s 2-0 defeat of Freiburg, the English side clinching automatic qualification while Freiburg enters a playoff matchup. Edson Alvarez was the star for West Ham, assisting on Mohammed Kudus’ opening goal and then scoring his first goal as a Hammer to close out the scoring. Liverpool had already clinched the top spot in its group before the Reds played some of their youngsters in a 2-1 loss Thursday to Union Saint-Gilloise.

In Europa Conference League play Aston Villa got the point it needed, clinching its group with a 1-1 draw with Srinjski. Nicolo Zaniolo scored his first goal in an Aston Villa shirt to produce the needed result.

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