The UEFA Europa League group stage enters its home stretch on Matchday 4 with West Ham and Lyon in poll position to reach the round of 16 while Rangers and Celtic bid to build on their first successes.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car presents UEFA.com’s guide to the stand-out stories.
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Thursday 4 November
Group A: Lyon vs Sparta Prague, Brøndby vs Rangers
Group B: Real Sociedad vs Sturm Graz, Monaco vs PSV Eindhoven
Group C: Legia Warszawa vs Napoli, Leicester vs Spartak Moscow
Group D: Olympiacos vs Eintracht Frankfurt, Royal Antwerp vs Fenerbahçe
Group E: Galatasaray vs Lokomotiv Moscow, Marseille vs Lazio
Group F: Braga vs Ludogorets, Crvena zvezda vs Midtjylland
Group G: Leverkusen vs Real Betis, Ferencváros vs Celtic
Group H: Genk vs West Ham, GNK Dinamo vs Rapid Wien
What to look out for?
Hammers and Lyon chasing last 16 places
The only two sides to have won all three of their games, West Ham and Lyon will seek to make it to the round of 16 with the minimum of fuss as they angle for their fourth victories on Matchday 4. The East London club head for Genk still dreaming of becoming the first team go through a Europa League group stage without conceding.
Lyon, meanwhile, welcome Sparta as the nine-goal top scorers in this season’s competition, with Karl Toko Ekambi bagging five of them (including at least one in each of their Group A games to date). “The players have accepted Peter Bosz’s attitude,” said sporting director Juninho. “We have everything needed to have a very good season.”
Old Firm rivals back in the hunt
“We’ve played well for halves and 60 minutes but tonight was really close to a perfect performance,” said relieved Rangers boss Steven Gerrard after the Scottish champions beat Brøndby 2-0 to get off the mark in Group A – and a follow- up victory in Denmark would put them into the top two (provided Sparta do not beat Lyon). Celtic are back in contention, too, as they aim to complete a Group G double against Ferencváros in Budapest.
Bhoys fans enjoyed their 2-0 Matchday 3 success, moving manager Ange Postecoglou to say the next day: “I apologize to all the [fans’] employers who had little productivity today. “Another win in Hungary could mean more tired Hoops come Friday 5 November.
Olympiacos lie in wait for Frankfurt
There is no shortage of tough sections in this season’s group stage, and Group D has a claim to being the hardest of all, though Olympiacos and Frankfurt are close to making it through as they meet again in Piraeus. Fenerbahçe dropped points at home to bottom club Antwerp last time out, leaving a four-point gap between second and third places.
Meanwhile, Oliver Glasner’s Eintracht were dispatching Thrylos 3-1 in Germany, midfielder Djibril Sow telling UEFA.com his team had demonstrated “the Frankfurt philosophy” to perfection in front of their own fans. It remains to be seen how that system holds up in front of one of the most intimidating crowds in European football.
• Ludogorets have now gone 15 UEFA Europa League games without a win and will match Rosenborg’s unwanted competition record of 16 if they fail to win on Matchday 4. Sturm Graz are within sight of a similarly gloomy milestone: they have lost their last seven fixtures in this group stage and could potentially equal Dundalk’s competition record of ten straight defeats on Matchday 6.
Patson Daka struck the fastest hat-trick in UEFA Europa League history in Leicester’s 4-3 win at Sparta Moscow last time out, and added a fourth on the night to become his club joint-top scorer in UEFA competition (level with Jamie Vardy and Harvey Barnes). One more goal and the Zambian will replicate his goal tally from four European seasons with Salzburg, so he already looks a strong candidate to be lead marksman in this season’s competition.
15/16 September: Matchday 1
30 September: Matchday 2
20/21 October: Matchday 3
4 November: Matchday 4
24/25 November: Matchday 5
December 9: Matchday 6
13 December: Knockout round play-offs draw
17 & 24 February: Knockout round play-offs
25 February: Round of 16 draw
10 & 17 March: Round of 16
18 March: Quarter-final & semi-final draws
7 & 14 April: Quarter-finals
28 April & 5 May: Semi-finals
May 18: Final (Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán, Seville)
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