Tottenham Hotspur progressed through three stages of competition that included single-leg wins in Bulgaria and North Macedonia, and officially qualified for the 2020 Europa League group stages on Thursday with a resounding 7-2 thumping of Israeli club Maccabi Haifa.
The draw for the Europa League groups will take place tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. ET, noon in the UK, which doesn’t give a whole lot of time for in-depth analysis. That said, it’s worth taking a look at the Europa League field to get a sense of what the possibilities are and who Spurs might end up facing.
First, some ground rules. Tottenham are the second highest rated team currently in the competition (14th), just slightly behind Arsenal (11th, and yes, the fact that Spurs STILL aren’t ahead of Arsenal in the UEFA Club Coefficients is evidence of a flawed system). They both are in Pot 1, while fellow Premier League club Leicester City starts in Pot 2.
The teams will be drawn into 12 groups of four teams, with one team from each pot. Just like in the Champions League, a club cannot be drawn into a group with a team from their own confederation, or with two teams from the same confederation, but all bets are off once you get past the first round of the knock-out stages.
Let’s take a look at the pots, along with their club coefficient numbers.
2020 Europa League Groups
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4|
|Pot 1||Pot 2||Pot 3||Pot 4|
|Arsenal (91.000)||Dinamo Zagreb (33.500)||Granada (20.456)||Zorya Luhansk (12.500)|
|Tottenham Hotspur (85.000)||Sparta Prague (30.500)||AC Milan (19.000)||Lille (11.849)|
|Roma (80.000)||Slavia Prague (27.500)||AZ Alkmaar (18.500)||Nice (11.849)|
|Napoli (77.000)||Ludogorets Razgrad (26.000)||Feyenoord (17.000)||Rijeka (11.000)|
|Benfica (70.000)||Young Boys (25.500)||AEK Athens (16.500)||Dundalk (8.500)|
|Bayer Leverkusen (61.000)||Red Star Belgrade (22.750)||Maccabi Tel Aviv (16.500)||Slovan Liberec (8.000)|
|Villarreal (56.000)||Rapid Wien (22.000)||Rangers (16.250)||Antwerp (7.580)|
|CSKA Moscow (44.000)||Leicester City (22.000)||Molde (15.000)||Lech Poznan (7.000)|
|Braga (41.00)||Qarabag (21.000)||Hoffenheim (14.956)||Sivasspor (6.720)|
|Gent (39.500)||PAOK (21.000)||LASK (14.000)||Wolfsberger (6.585)|
|PSV Eindhoven (37.000)||Standard Liege (20.500)||Hapoel Beer Sheva (14.000)||Omonia (5.350)|
|Celtic (34.000)||Real Sociedad (20.456)||CF Cluj (12.500)||CSKA Sofia (4.000)|
So what does this mean for Tottenham’s potential group stage opponents? Let’s take a look.
Worst Case Scenario
Real Sociedad • AC Milan • Lille
The worst thing that can happen in a draw that’s full of mostly, but not entirely, bad teams is to get drawn with a bunch of clubs from good federations. Real Sociedad is a mid-table La Liga side, but they’re still a La Liga side that includes Adnan Januzaj (remember him?), former Spurs striker target Willian Jose, oh and some old guy named David Silva.
AC Milan has been pretty terrible this season and had to come back from behind late to defeat Rio Ave on penalty kicks just to qualify for this tournament, but come on, they’re still AC Milan — a competent, high level Italian club.
Lille, meanwhile, has players such as Zeki Celik, Renato Sanchez, Boubakare Soumare, and Bourak Yilmaz. We also stole their assistant coaches when Jose Mourinho got hired, and tried to poach their Director of Football, Luis Campos. I’d imagine Lille would probably like to kick us in the teeth and they are certainly better than a lot of the jokers that are with them in Pot 4.
Spurs should still progress out of this group, but boy, it sure wouldn’t be as easy as it might otherwise. You could also replace Milan with Hoffenheim in Pot 2, and Lille with Nice in Pot 3 and an equally tough group.
Best Case Scenario
Pretty much everything else, but let’s go with: PAOK • Maccabi Tel Aviv • Omonia
The good news for Spurs is that, at least at this stage of the competition, most of the teams aren’t very good. That means that there’s a pretty good chance that Spurs are going to draw a group that will be pretty easy to escape from, even if they play a rotated side. And even if they happen to draw a club with a scary fan base (like Red Star Belgrade, last year’s Champions League opponents) the fact that these matches will be taking place behind closed doors means that even the away legs won’t be as scary as what they could be.
PAOK would be fun just so we can relive the glory, glory Europa League campaign of 2012. Tel-Aviv are currently lounging near the bottom of the Israeli league table. Omonia is a Cypriot League side who has a club coefficient higher than only CSKA Sofia, and I’d prefer not to go back to Bulgaria.
Most Fun Scenario
Young Boys • Rangers • Dundalk
I like the Europa League because it gives us an opportunity to play against clubs that we normally don’t even pay attention to. Young Boys gave Spurs fits in the Champions League play-in game back in 2011. They’ve got a solid European pedigree and it’s usually fun to play against Swiss League teams. Rangers are well behind Celtic still in the SPL, but they’re managed by Steven Gerrard, and who wouldn’t want to kick that guy’s butt again, just for old time’s sake? Dundalk are an Irish club who are the very definition of “just happy to be here.”
If you would like some more far-flung locales and aren’t touchy about travel distance, Armenian club Qarabag is fun out of Pot 2, Hapoel Beer Sheva has the word “beer” in their name, and who’s up for a trip to Turkey to play Sivasspor?
Generate your own!
The same fine folk that make the Champions League Draw Simulator that we post in here every year also makes an Europa League version where you can simulate the draw to your little heart’s content. Here’s my first attempt. Not bad!