Europa League Preview: Group E-H
How would Fiorentina, Sevilla and Bordeaux fare?
Fiorentina are favorites to win the group, but it is never going to be easy. They were unlucky not to finish ahead of Milan in the league, and Italian sides rarely pay much attention to the Europa League. Last season, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk won a strong group featuring S.S. Napoli and PSV Eindhoven with ease. The key man would be two-time Ukrainian footballer of the year Yevhen Konoplyanka, who tormented England’s Kyle Walker on Tuesday. Paços de Ferreira surprised everyone by finishing third in the Primeira Liga last season, but it would be a minor miracle if the Portuguese side survives this group, after opening their domestic season with 3 consecutive defeats. Nevertheless, with the firepower provided by Manchester United loanee Bébé they should finish ahead of Romanian minnows Pandurii.
Prediction: Dnipro (winners), Fiorentina (runner up)
This is a group where all four teams can conceivably make it to the knockout stages. The smart money is on Eintracht Frankfurt and Bordeaux, and both sides have the quality to grab top spot. APOEL Nicosia should count themselves lucky to still be in Europe. The Cypriot champions were eliminated not once but twice during qualification – first by Maribor on away goals in the 3rd round of Champions League Qualification then Zulte-Waregem in the Europa League Play-off Round. APOEL managed to become the first name drawn among the losing play-off teams to replace Fenerbahce, which adds to the mystique of a competition often criticized for including Champions League drop-offs. Maccabi Haifa ended their ten-year wait for a league championship last season and could cause a few surprise.
Prediction: Frankfurt (winners), Bordeaux (runner up)
With squad boasting big names such as Miguel Veloso, Younes Belhanda and and Andriy Yarmolenko, Dynamo Kiev are firm favourites to win Group G. Last season, KRC Genk topped their group (featuring eventual semi-finalist Basel) undefeated and are odds on to qualify again in a relatively weak group. Rapid Vienna are capable of causing Genk a few problems, but the same cannot be said of Swiss side FC Thun.
Prediction: Dynamo Kiev (winners), Genk (runner up)
Sevilla looks to relive their glory days in this competition, starting with a favorable group which they should win. Their underwhelming record in recent Europa League campaigns should provide hope for German side Freiburg, who should at least finish second. Estoril and Slovan Liberec will slug it out for third place.
Prediction: Sevilla (winners), Freiburg (runner up)