Yesterday, Tottenham Hotspur booked their passage to the group stage of the inaugural Europa Conference League with a 3-0 home win over Pacos de Ferreira, giving them a 3-1 aggregate victory over two legs. Today, they now know who they will be facing in the group stages.
After this morning’s draw, Tottenham were drawn into Group G, where they will play against Stade Rennais, Vitesse, and Mura.
The goal for Tottenham was to somehow land in a group where they were a shark swimming amongst a bunch of minnows. That nearly happened, but a decently large fish also ended up in their pool. Rennes are a good Ligue 1 side that finished sixth last season, and according to both FiveThirtyEight and ClubELO are the highest ranked club in that pot. According to the rankings, Rennes are contemporaries with the likes of Newcastle, Southampton, and Brentford, making them similar to a lower-half Premier League side. There were some real teams in the Conference League Pot 2, and unfortunately Tottenham ended up with one of the best.
You might be familiar with Eredivisie side Vitesse as a popular destination for Chelsea’s loan army but the truth is there doesn’t appear to be any Chelsea kids, past or present, on their roster. Vitesse, according to the club rankings, are analogous to Championship sides like Stoke City, Cardiff, and Blackburn. FiveThirtyEight has them close in rankings to the New England Revolution.
And then there’s Slovenian side Mura. FiveThirtyEight doesn’t even have them listed on their rankings, and ClubELO has them rated at 425, below a club from Liechtenstein. They did, however, win the Slovenian League last season, ahead of more recognizable clubs such as Maribor and Olimpija. This is the level of club I expected to see out of Pot 4, and I’m not disappointed. It’s a longish flight, but probably a routine game.
The upshot is that Spurs won’t be able to waltz through this group by playing the kids, especially against Rennes. It’s likely they’ll need to play a real, or mostly real, team against the Ligue 1 side, but can probably rotate heavily against Vitesse and Mura. Spurs are still the biggest and best club in the competition, but they won’t be able to sleepwalk through the group stage. With the second place teams having to play against the Europa League dropouts before advancing to the round of 16, winning the group is essential.
The fixtures have not been released yet, but the group stage matches will start in September.