Europa League round-up: matchday one

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This season’s Europa League kicked-off on Thursday evening. Here’s our retrospective look back at some of the key action from matchday one.

I would die before I finished a report on all of the Europa League games played on Thursday, so I’ll just try to point out a few key things, writes Roberto Gell.

Firstly, we cannot draw any conclusions at this early stage. There may be teams who thumped their opposition, outplayed them and could have even scored more. Good start, but winning one game doesn’t get you to the final. Consistency is the key. Let’s not forget that you can’t have bad days if you don’t want your Europa League run finished earlier than you hoped.

Secondly, Group I is definitely the strongest for me, with Atletico Madrid, Celtic, Udinese and Rennes all battling for two hotly contested spots. Keep an eye out on that group, there are some very promising matches coming up. Atletico and Udinese both got the three points they wanted, but there is still much to play for. It’s worth noting that Sion’s fans travelled to the Calderón, all the way from Switzerland to show their disapproval with the UEFA’s decision that threw them out of the Europa League and re-instated the Spaniard’s opponents, Celtic. Crazy, eh?

It wasn’t a very good day for English teams as none were able to secure 3 points. Fulham were perhaps the least disappointing, along with Stoke, who both drew 1-1 against Twente and Dynamo Kiev respectively. In fairness, the opposition were two sides not to be sneezed at. On the other hand, Tottenham will be gutted after they only managed a goalless draw with PAOK while Birmingham lost at home to Braga, a result that wasn’t unexpected. The Blues must do better to stand a chance of progressing, though.

Personally, I love the Europa League because there are no clear favourites, it’s practically guaranteed that every year we have a different champion. The addition of the third-placed Champions League teams makes it even harder and even more competitive. It’s a great competition for clubs like Fulham, for example, who can reach the final and fight for the title, or Birmingham, in the Championship but in Europe, with all the money involved which will definitely be a great help. The Europa League is a seriously underrated competition here, when it comes to clubs like them.

And finally, we have some excellent games coming up on Day 2, including:

Lokomotiv – Anderlecht : Two teams who started their Europa League campaigns with a win, and are serious contenders to go through, meet at Moscow with the Russian winter giving its first warnings…

Celtic – Udinese: Celtic take on Udinese knowing that a defeat against the Italians would leave their Europa League hopes depending on other teams, rather than themselves. Udinese have a golden chance to go 6 points ahead…

Sporting – Lazio: This match speaks for itself, really.

Athletic Bilbao – PSG: ‘Los leones’ face a firm challenge against a strengthened PSG side who look to go three valuable points ahead of Bilbao. Both teams won their opening games.

I’m sure many shocks await us, too, so remember to keep at least one eye out for the EL!

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