With luck, Villarreal, paired with Israeli Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Austrian Austria Vienna and Polish Lech Poznanshould have no problem accessing the next phase of the Conference League, a tournament in which another favourite, West Ham, will share a group with two historic clubs.
Unai Emery’s team will be able to use their ‘unit B’ to stay in the fight to go far in the Conference League. He has been lucky in the draw and the entity of his rivals will give the coach of the Castellón team the option to use their best players in the League and give minutes in Europe to more promising ones such as Nicolas Jackson or Lex Baena.
The Hapoel Beer Sheva, ranked second in the League of their country last year after Maccabi Haifa, Austria Vienna, fourth in Austria, and Lech Poznan, champion of Poland, will not be a difficult obstacle for Emery’s team. In any case, Lech Poznan will put up more resistance than the rest of their rivals.
However, after shining in the Ekstraklasa last season, Lech was disappointed in his intentions to participate in the Champions League. In the qualifying phase, they fell to the first change after being thrashed by Qarabag (2-5 on aggregate) and then had to eliminate Dinamo Batumi, Vikingur Reykjavik and Dudelange to access the Conference League.
In the League, his start has been terrible and he is in penultimate position after the first five disputed in which he has only achieved one point. For this reason, Villarreal’s strongest rival is weaker than ever. And, Emery and his players should take advantage of it.
Another favourite, West Ham, was also placed in an affordable group, B, with a marked historical profile. Two of his rivals, Steaua Bucharest and Anderlecht, have between them seven European titles (one European Cup, three Super Cups, one UEFA Cup and two Cup Winners’ Cups).
Those showcases no longer ensure anything. For decades, the Romanian team ceased to be that club that shone in Europe with Belodedici, Balin or Lacatus and that lifted the European Cup in 1986 after beating Barcelona. Now, he is even a candidate to unseat Cluj, the new hegemonic entity in his country.
Meanwhile, Anderlecht lost steam last season and even the Union Royale Saint-Gilloise unseated him from second place. He couldn’t even participate in the qualifying phase of the Champions League and has had to make do with the Conference League. And, the fourth club in the group, Silkeborg dans, is the guest at the party that will try to surprise.
Group D is the only one in which two teams from the five major European leagues have come together. Nice from France and Cologne from Germany will compete for one of the two qualifying spots with Partizan Belgrade and Slovcko from the Czech Republic.
The Italian representative, Fiorentina, will have it easy IN group A with Turkish Istanbul Basaksehir, with the Scottish Hearts and with the Latvian Rigas Futbols Skolas, the first representative of his country in a European competition. Just like Liechtenstein’s Vaduz, who curiously play in the Swiss Second Division and have been paired in Group E with Dutch AZ Alkmaar, Cypriot Apollon Limassol and Ukrainian Dnipro.
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Luck for Villarreal, history for West Ham