Europa Conference League Matchday 6: Last round of thrilling debut season

Spurs' manager Antonio Conte. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Spurs' manager Antonio Conte. (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images) /
Spurs’ Harry Kane during the UEFA Europa Conference League group G match against NS Mura at Stadion Ljudski Vrt. (Photo by Milos Vujinovic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Spurs’ Harry Kane during the UEFA Europa Conference League group G match against NS Mura at Stadion Ljudski Vrt. (Photo by Milos Vujinovic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

The Europa Conference League rounds up the midweek European football

It may be its first season of existence, yet while being UEFA’s third tier club competition, the UEFA Europa Conference League has pleasantly surprised. Thursday will see the last 16 games of the group stage, with still a fair amount to be decided.

To those unfamiliar, the Europa Conference League also has 32 teams in eight groups of four. At the end of the group stage, the group winners will progress directly to the last 16. The runner-ups will be joined by the third-place finishers from the Europa League in the Knockout Round Playoffs (or KO Playoffs).

The eight winners from that will progress to the Round of 16 joining the group winners. The bottom two teams in each group are eliminated.

With the format explanation out of the way, let’s take a look at the most promising games coming up and what is on the line for the participants.

Most fascinating group: Group B

While the Champions League and Europa League have a group with (almost) everything still in play, there is no such group in the Conference League. The closest to that comes in the form of a three-way battle for a spot in the KO Playoffs.

While Gent have already have guaranteed top spot, second place is still possible for all of Partizan Belgrade (7 points), Flora Tallinn (5) and Anorthosis Famagusta (5). In the event of a tie for first place with Partizan, Gent have the head-to-head edge.

While a deflated Flora side will go to Belgium on Thursday night, it will be the Serbian Superliga pacesetters trying to wrap up the runner-up position at home to Anorthosis.

Partizan just need a point to secure second as they own the head-to-head with Flora, thus a win at the Ghelamco Arena would not be enough for the Estonians to steal the playoff place. Should Partizan lose to Anorthosis, then the Cypriot outfit can go through if Gent avoid defeat, or if Flora win and their goal difference inferior to Anorthosis.

Moving on, a direct clash in Berlin will determine who will enjoy Feburary football from Group E between Union Berlin (6) and Slavia Praha (7). The latter have the advantage of obtaining a point more than their German counterparts, needing just a point to maintain that advantage. Although neither side can catch Feyenoord to be group winners, prolonging their European campaigns into the new year is still a hope for both.

Antonio Conte’s Spurs (7) side have not had things their way in Group G, and while they host confirmed section top dogs Rennes, a win might not be enough to see one of the preseason favorites maintain their European status.

Level on points with the North Londoners are Dutch side Vitesse, who have punched above their weight. They will welcome the Slovenian champs Mura to Arnhem, knowing if they better Spurs’ result, they will enjoy continental football going into the new year. A win might not be enough so far, as they still would require to overturn a two-goal difference to move on.

If both Spurs and Vitesse draw or lose, the former will partake in Monday’s playoff draw. If they both lose, Vitesse would be the one eliminated.

Group D will see Randers (7) and Jablonec (6) jostle for second. While the Danish cup winners will have to go group winners AZ. The Czechs will make a trip to Romania to meet last place CFR Cluj. A Randers win and/or a Jablonec defeat will be enough for the Danes, while Jablonec can turn things around in their favor with a win along with a Randers loss of points. A draw could also be enough if Randers take a beating.

The last group to feature a tussle for continental football in February hails from Group F, where PAOK and Slovan Bratislava are locked on eight points each. While the Slovak champs go to Denmark to face winners Kobenhavn, the Thessaloniki-based PAOK will host Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps.

Whoever gets more points goes through. If both games end in a draw, Slovan will move on, while defeats or victories for both competitors will see things go down to goal difference, which the Slovaks currently own by one.

Group C sees another heavyweight Roma go through a bit of a struggle as well. While Jose Mourinho’s men are set to advance, top spot is still on the line. They are a point behind the likely-to-be Norwegian champions Bodø/Glimt.

The only way for the Giallorossi to avoid the KO Playoffs is by topping CSKA Sofia in the Bulgarian capital while Bodø/Glimt slip up at Zorya Luhansk. Anything less will see Glimt finish on top in their first taste of group stage football in Europe.

Finally, Basel and Qarabag will go toe-to-toe in Group H, with a point being enough for the Swiss to finish on top. While both sides have ensured a top two finish, ending at the summit is still of importance as the winner will have two less games to be concerned with.

Next. Europa League Matchday 6: Tense matches across the board. dark

The rules on tiebreakers can be found here. All the fixtures as well as their kickoff times for Thursday evening are here. Monday’s Knockout Round Playoffs draw will take place at 14:00 CET. Hopefully Thursday night will provide a fitting end to what has been a wonderful group stage in the maiden season of the Europa Conference League.