Europa League: Liverpool and Brighton aiming to secure last-32 places

By on November 29, 2023

Kaoru Mitoma

As the UEFA Europa League group stage nears its completion, the likes of Liverpool, West Ham, Brighton and Hove Albion, and Rangers, find themselves in pivotal matchups, aiming to secure victories that will propel them into the knockout rounds.

Here’s a preview of what to expect from the four British clubs in their respective watches 

Liverpool vs LASK Linz

Liverpool host Austrian Bundesliga side, LASK at Anfield on Thursday as they aim to confirm qualification into the next round with at least one point.

The Reds currently sit top of Group E with nine points and need only a point to seal qualification into the knockout rounds. LASK are bottom of the group with three points and victory at Anfield will provide them with a bleak of hope towards qualification.

In the previous match against Toulouse, Liverpool were left red-faced after a 97th-minute leveler by Jarell Quansah was ruled out with VAR ruling that Alexis MacAlister handled the ball.

After a resounding 5-1 first-leg win over the Ligue 1 side back in October, many would expect Liverpool to continue the rout at Stadium Municipal, but strikes from Aron Donnum, Thijs Dallinga, and Frank Magri secured a 3-2 win for Les Violets.

The defeat in France now meant that Liverpool would have to wait for another matchday to have the chance of sealing qualification. A defeat to LASK and a victory for Toulouse over third-placed Union Saint-Gilloise could see the Reds succumb to second place. Hence, Jürgen Klopp’s men will be eager to get full points.

Last weekend, Klopp’s side were hoping to topple Manchester City to the top of the League with a win at the Etihad. But Trent Alexander-Arnold’s late strike could only salvage a 1:1 draw for the Reds who were second best in most duration of the game.

While LASK have not made significant progress in European competition this season, their knockout aspirations are not entirely extinguished. A surprising 3-0 victory against Union SG on matchday four, with contributions from Sascha Horvath, Maksym Talovyerov, and Robert Zulj, provided a glimmer of hope for the Austrian side. However, their fate in the competition hinges on their result. at Anfield.

LASK find themselves in a precarious situation, with just one point separating them from Union SG in third place. Their slim chances of securing a top-two finish, which would provide a potential route to the Europa Conference League, hinge on their ability to claim a surprise victory against Liverpool. A loss, coupled with a Union SG win over Toulouse, would likely end their journey in the current campaign.

Thomas Sageder’s team will be motivated by their recent victory over Austrian Bundesliga side, WSG Tirol where Robert Žulj’s 14th minutes strike was enough to seal all three points at The Raiffeisen Arena and will hope to repeat any winning feat when they face Liverpool on Thursday.

For match-going fans who struggle to get hold of tickets, this match could be a good opportunity to visit Anfield. Liverpool tickets for this game should be easier to come by given the strength of the opposition and demand won’t be as high as usual.

AEK Athens vs Brighton

Brighton and Hove Albion travel to Greece to face AEK Athens at The Agia Sophia Stadium on Thursday.

AEK are in a winless run of three matches in the UEFA Europa League with their last victory being the 3:2 win over Brighton. Most noteworthy, The Seagulls are unbeaten since their defeat at the Amex stadium recording a draw against Olympique Marseille and back-to-back victories over AFC Ajax.

While AEK lost 2:0 to Marseille, Brighton cruised to a comfortable 2:0 victory over Ajax courtesy of goals from Ansu Fati and Simon Adingra. Victory over AEK will guarantee Brighton’s place in the knockout round playoffs.

In their respective domestic leagues, Brighton recorded a 3:2 win over Nottingham Forest in the Premier League through a João Pedro’s brace and an Evan Ferguson first-half strike. On the other hand, a solitary strike from Steven Zuber ensured all three points for Dikéfalos Aetós as they defeated Giannina in the Greek Super League.

AEK need a win in this match and victory for Evangelos Aslanidis’ men will take them to equal points with Brighton and one point adrift Marseille depending on the result with Ajax.

Aslanidis’ team has been resilient at home, with only one loss in their last seven home games across all competitions. They have secured clean sheets in three of their last four games during this period. However, their Europa League home record has been less impressive, with just one win in their last 12 home games, indicating potential challenges in this match.

On the other hand, Brighton enter the game with confidence, riding a six-game unbeaten run across all competitions. They have notched three wins and three draws during this stretch. In the Europa League, Brighton are also unbeaten in their two away games so far and will aim to extend their away form to three games.

TSC Backa Topola vs West Ham United

West Ham United travel to Serbia to face Serbian SuperLiga side, TSC Bačka Topola in the UEFA Europa League matchday five on Thursday

The Hammers are top of Group A with nine points. They have also equaled three wins in the last four Europa League games, with their only loss coming against Olympiacos. Victory over TSG with a considerably high scoreline will all but secure first place for West Ham. Freiburg are also in hot pursuit of the first spot as they share equal points with West Ham and are only behind on goal difference.

Meanwhile, TSG are winless in their last four Europa League games, sitting bottom of the table in Group A. Although they can’t qualify for the next round, a win over West Ham could provide hopes of securing a UEFA Conference League knockout spot.

Both teams returned to domestic league actions as West Ham secured a 2:1 win over Burnley in the Premier League courtesy of a Dara O’Shea own goal and Tomas Soucek strike.

TSC meanwhile cruised to victory in the Serbian SuperLiga as Žarko Lazetić’s team recorded a resounding 4:0 win over Partizan courtesy of goals from Aleksandar Ćirković, Nemanja Stojic, Milan Radin and Uroš Milovanović.

TSC have faced a difficult run of results over the past months, securing only two wins in their last 13 games across all competitions, and notably, both victories were obtained in away matches. The Serbian side have recorded only one win in eight Europa League appearances which includes qualifiers. Hence, getting a point from the match against the Hammers would be difficult.

With the joint-worst defensive record in the competition, having conceded 13 goals in four games, keeping a clean sheet also seems unlikely for TSC in this matchup.

On the other hand, David Moyes’ men enter the game in good form, boasting a three-game winning streak, including a comeback victory against Burnley on Saturday. With Freiburg trailing them by goal difference, The Hammers will hope to record a significant number of goals to secure the first spot and progress into the next round.

Rangers vs Aris Limassol

Rangers welcome Cypriot First Division side, Aris Limassol to Ibrox Stadium in the UEFA Europa League matchday five.

The Gers form have taken an upward spiral since Philippe Clement was appointed and they have recorded impressive results including a 2:1 victory over Sparta Praha in the last Europa League match week.

Clement’s side are second in Group C with seven points, two points adrift of group leaders, Real Betis. The Gers could ascend to first place if they secure victory over Limassol and if Betis fail to defeat Sparta Prague.

On the other hand, Limassol have endured a disastrous stint in the Europa League, with just one win in four matches, and are on the brink of of being completely knocked out of the competition if they lose to Rangers. Their hopes are not entirely over if they could win their remaining matches. However, all those hopes hinge on the results from Sparta Prague.

Limassol’s recent 1:0 victory against APOEL Nicosia halted a streak of consecutive losses, providing them with momentum to build upon. Nevertheless, they have faced setbacks in their last two away matches and might encounter another defeat in this fixture.

In contrast, Rangers are enjoying a remarkable nine-game unbeaten streak, securing seven wins during this period. Their strong home form includes six victories in their last seven games at Ibrox, establishing them as clear favorites for the clash on Thursday.