UEFA Europa League 2013-14 Group Stage Draw: Winners and Losers
The draw for the group stages of the 2013-14 Europa League was made in Monaco on Friday, as the 48 sides involved in this year's competition found out where they will be heading in the first phase of the tournament.
With a range of disparate teams with wildly different aims—spreading from the likes of Valencia and Tottenham, that must surely fancy their chances of winning the competition, to comparative minnows like Croatia's Rijeka and Romania's Pandurii Targu Jiu—some clubs were hoping for straightforward draws, while others may have been simply hoping to be paired with one of the more illustrious names in the pot.
With all that in mind, click on as we take a look at some of the winners and losers from Friday's draw.
Click here for the full draw for the group stages of the competition.
Loser: Tottenham Hotspur
Branding Tottenham "losers" for the draw they were handed is a bit extreme. They are not really losers, however they just did not get a draw they would have preferred.
Facing Anzhi Makhachkala—even an Anzhi that has started selling off its most prominent stars—poses the double trouble of being both a difficult opponent and a dauntingly long away trip, the latter of which might actually be of more concern to manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Trips to Moldova (to face Sheriff) and Norway (to face Tromso) are similarly difficult for various reasons, although the teams themselves should prove a class or two beneath Spurs.
That's the point—Spurs have a squad that would have rendered them favourites to win almost any group they could have been put in.
The one they've ended up with, however, they just would not quite have gone with out of choice. It has the potential to ask a few more awkward questions than perhaps they would have liked.
Swansea fans should be pretty happy with their Group A draw. It contains an obvious glamour tie, yet the other two sides are of a sufficiently limited standard that Michael Laudrup should feel confident about his side's chances of progression.
The away visit to Valencia—and indeed, welcoming the Liga side to the Liberty Stadium—should be two great nights for the Capital One Cup winners; a real chance for fans to reflect on just how far the club has come (and could still go).
Russian side Kuban Krasnodar will present an unwelcome away trip, but the side only finished fifth in the Russian top division last season—suggesting a pedigree that should not unduly worry the Swans.
Switzerland's St. Gallen fall into a similar boat, albeit without quite the same length of trip.
There are so many variables involved in the group stages of the Europa League—primarily, how seriously each side will take the competition—that it is foolish to ever be confident about anything.
But Swansea should feel good about their draw. They have the chance to progress, and they've also got a marquee tie to look forward to.
Loser: Shakhter Karagandy
The fine lines between success and failure: At one point in midweek, it looked like Shakhter Karagandy were within touching distance of the Champions League group stages, becoming the first Kazakh side ever to achieve such heights.
If they had managed to hold on to beat Celtic, as it transpired, they would have been handed near enough a dream group—Barcelona, Ajax and AC Milan.
Instead, Karagandy entered Friday's Europa League draw as the lowest ranked of all 48 sides, according to UEFA's own coefficients, and they duly got a drab, drab draw.
AZ Alkmaar, PAOK and Maccabi Haifa is not a group to set the pulses racing and similarly not one that Karagandy—despite their fine home result against Celtic—should have much confidence of progressing from.
Karagandy would have hoped to have drawn a big name. Instead, they were only reminded of exactly what they missed out on.
Winner: PSV Eindhoven
Like Shakhter, PSV Eindhoven began the week with realistic hopes of being in the Champions League group stage draw, but they will be content with what the Europa League equivalent offered them.
Dinamo Zagreb, Chornomorets Odesa and Ludogorets is not the easiest trio to navigate, offering as they do a number of long trips into intimidating arenas, but it is a fine challenge for a young, talented side that will surely learn massively from the experience.
Assuming Phillip Cocu takes the competition seriously, he will have the chance to expose his young stars to the challenges of European football, yet victories and progression should not be beyond their reach in any regard.
The club could have been faced with the likes of Anzhi and Eintracht Frankfurt, making their chances of progression that much slimmer. Instead, they have a manageable group that will help the squad significantly.
Bordeaux will not be too disappointed with the Pot 2 team they drew. APOEL Nicosia come with a fairly recent Champions League pedigree (acquitting themselves admirably in reaching the quarter-finals in 2011-12) but are not as threatening as some of the other opponents they could have drawn.
The French side will not be so pleased with the other two opponents they were handed, however.
Eintracht Frankfurt and Maccabi Tel-Aviv were the hardest possible opponents they could have drawn from Pot 3 and Pot 4 (judging by UEFA coefficients, an admittedly imperfect measure), and they got them both.
The upshot is that with all three sides posing their own threats, Bordeaux are nowhere near as prohibitive favourites to progress to the knockout stages as some of their other Pot 1 rivals.
Having finished third in Croatia's top division last season, Rijeka were rewarded with a pretty great Europa League draw—Lyon, Real Betis and Vitoria Guimaraes. That means trips to three scenic cities to take on at least two teams of general European renown.
For a small side like Rijeka, that is the sort of draw you must go in hoping for. They can now look forward to all their ties, with the prospect of pulling off a shock or two that will be well remembered in the club's history.
Other Verdicts: Valencia, Eintracht Frankfurt, Wigan
Valencia is the best side in the draw, according to UEFA coefficients. The Pot 1 side should be able to enjoy entertaining, open games against Swansea and confirm their progression against Kuban and St. Gallen. All in all, nothing to be disappointed about.
Always appearing to be a dangerous Pot 3 side, the Germans will see no reason why they cannot win a group involving Bordeaux, APOEL and Maccabi Tel-Aviv—never mind simply finishing in the top two.
The Italians face tests from Dnipro, Pacos de Ferreira and Pandurii (Romania) but should nevertheless prove good enough to finish in the top two in the group.
Wigan and Maribor both contain some talented players, but the Russian side will be confident it has both the squad and the home advantage to cruise into the last 32.
The FA Cup champions have a tough draw—Rubin Kazan, Maribor and Zulte Waregem—that offers the twin negatives of containing little glamour and offering less-than-great chances of progression. Not a lot to be inspired about for the Latics.
The Spanish side have remarkably little distance to travel for their group games (France, Portugal and Croatia) and will fancy themselves to progress. That's as good as you can hope for at this stage.