The final qualification stage of the UEFA Europa League has come to a conclusion, which means that we now know what teams will occupy which pots in the gigantic mess that is the Group Stages. As we already knew, Tottenham Hotspur got to avoid the qualification rounds and jump straight into the draw, occupying a spot in Pot 1 along with some fairly strong clubs, including Schalke 04, Basel, Napoli, Villarreal, Sporting CP, Marseille, and last year's runners-up, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.
Here is the full breakdown of the pots, 1-4, and their UEFA coefficient:
(As of press time, Rheindorf Altach and Belenenses had their match delayed and were still playing)
While that's a lot of clubs because Europa League's Group Stage is 12 groups instead of eight in the Champions League, we really just need to focus on the teams that Spurs can be drawn against. By rule, Spurs cannot be drawn against another team from the Premier League, so this eliminates Liverpool in Pot 2. After that, there are no restrictions other than having to deal with only one club per league.
Because Europa League matches are on Thursdays and can require some lengthy air travel, there are a couple of ways that can be seen as beneficial: Either matches against very weak clubs or matches against geographically close teams. Luckily for everyone in the Europa League, Astera managed to qualify for the Champions League, which means that there is no possibility of a nine hour flight to Kazakhstan. There are still some rough possibilities.
BEST CASE SCENARIO:
Pot 2 - Celtic (Scotland)
Looking at Pot 2, there are a couple of options that would be okay. Celtic looked completely mystified in their away leg against Malmo FF and, thus, found themselves out of the Champions League before even reaching the group stage. That drops The Hoops into Europa and, with their coefficient of only 39, into the second pot. Travel here is ideal, as it means only having to hop a short flight north to Celtic Park in Glasgow. An argument can be made for both Anderlecht and Club Brugge, but Celtic would be a very welcome sight and would dodge a few nasty bullets in Pot 2.
Pot 3 - Saint-Etienne or Bordeaux (France)
This is a coin toss based upon both quality of the clubs as well as geography, but either of the two French clubs in Pot 3 would make for a good draw for Spurs. The two clubs finished 5th and 6th in Ligue 1 respectively last season, but neither would provide any terrible threat to Spurs' ability to advance out of the group stages. The added bonus of only being across the English channel means keeping players off of cramped aircraft and getting them back to London after the road tie. Hope for one of these two, because the rest of Pot 3 is a crap shoot.
Pot 4 - Groningen (Netherlands), Sion (Switzerland), Midtjylland (Denmark)
Pot 4 is always crazy to deal with. A lot of newcomers find themselves in this pot, and it usually means lengthy travels to clubs that you actually have to look up on a map. Most of these clubs are not good, so geography becomes the biggest worry. Spurs best bet is to want a short travel, and that would be Groningen in Netherlands. The Green-White Army finished 8th in the Eredivisie last season and only qualified for the Europa League by winning the Dutch KNVB Cup by knocking off PEC Zwolle 2-0. Groningen is a short flight across the English Channel and, against a side that isn't the most dangerous, would be a very welcome sight in the group stages. Alternatives to Groningen would be Sion in Switzerland to start, who are a great mixture of "not very good" and "close to England" so that would be a relatively stress-free matchup. Midtjylland in Denmark would be the third best option for the same reasons as Sion, though this is the club that has employed Ted Knutson and Nikos Overheul. They also love their stats-based system, as stated in this article that's worth a read about the Danish champions.
WORST CASE SCENARIO:
Pot 2 - Besiktas (Turkey), Fiorentina (Italy), Lazio (Italy)
Yep, Besiktas is back in Europa League. Spurs were drawn into the same group as the Turkish power last season and only managed a point against the Black Eagles. They're still a scary side and boast one of the more intimidating grounds in the Vodafone Arena. Besiktas finished third in the Turkish Super Lig last season, good enough to slot into an automatic Europa spot. The Italian sides in Pot 2 are not that fun to look at either. Fiorentina and Lazio are both very capable sides and would be favorites to get out of whatever group they are slotted into. If Spurs want an easy draw, avoid Turkey and Italy in Pot 2.
Pot 3 - Monaco (France), Fenerbahce (Turkey), Lokomotiv (Russia)
While Pot 3 is less intimidating top to bottom, there are still a few clubs that could trip Spurs up and also require lengthy travel. Monaco has had recent success in the Champions League but find themselves in Europa this time around. Anthony Martial, who Spurs were linked to in the transfer window, is a striker that could cause issues. Fenerbahce is the Turkish side not named Besiktas that would be a concern. If Vodafone Arena is Kefka's Tower, than Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium is Mordor. We do not want to make any trip there. Lokomotiv gets put into this group because, while they aren't the most dangerous side to deal with, that's a very long trip to make on a Thursday. Let's avoid these three altogether.
Pot 4 - Qarabağ (Azerbaijan), Gabala (Azerbaijan), Partizan (Serbia)
Pot 4, as previously mentioned, is a mixture of teams that you have to look up. Spurs, however, will remember Partizan, considering they were paired up last year and had a 0-0 draw in the road tie. It's a long flight in a very hostile environment, and I think we can all agree we don't want to make a return visit one year later. On the flip side, there's Azerbaijani sides Qarabağ and Gabala, who are only on this list because the flight time is stupid. Outside of Rubin Kazan, who sit in Pot 1, it's the longest flight Spurs could make. The match probably wouldn't be terrible since the Azerbaijani sides are at the very bottom of the pool, but it would be that Sunday matchup in the Premier League that could hurt due to the flight.
The Europa League draw will be held on Friday at 1:00 PM Central European Time, which puts it at 7:00 AM for the east coast of the United States.