What needs to happen for Benfica to be seeded for the Europa League knockout round
Benfica know that they will be participating in the Europa League after Christmas, having secured third place in their group with one game to spare. But how can they end up being seeded for the first round knockout draw? All will be explained here.
Firstly, the way the seeding works for the Europa League round of 32 is as follows: all the sides that finish top of their respective Europa League groups are automatically seeded for the first knockout round. Joining these twelve sides as seeded teams are then the four best third-place sides from the Champions League (ie of the eight 3rd-place teams in the Champions League, the four that have the most points will also be seeded).
That is where Benfica come in; if they are within the top four 3rd-place sides, they will avoid having to take on any of the Europa League group winners, therefore allowing Benfica to have what is, in essence, an easier knockout round tie.
The table below shows the current 3rd-place standings, with Benfica still to play that final match against AEK Athens:
From this, it is clear that the four seeded 3rd-place sides for the first knockout round of the Europa League are currently Napoli, Inter Milan, Club Brugge and Valencia, with Benfica currently occupying 7th place in the table, only above Viktoria Plzen.
Therefore, quite a lot has to happen for Benfica to be considered one of the four best sides dropping into Europe’s secondary competition. Here we will outline every possibility available to Benfica to make it into the top 4:
If Benfica LOSE:
If Benfica lose, there is no way that they are able to break into the top four 3rd-place sides. Even if every other side lost by an even bigger margin than Benfica, five teams have already racked up 5 points, while Benfica only have 4.
A draw is the absolute minimum requirement for Benfica to have any chance of being seeded.
If Benfica DRAW:
If Benfica manage to pick up just a single point against AEK Athens, then their chances of being seeded are very slim to say the least. ALL of the following will need to occur:
From Group G, Viktoria Plzen must fail to beat Roma AND CSKA Moscow, who take on Real Madrid, must fail to better Plzen’s result.
This may sound slightly confusing, but basically, if Viktoria Plzen draw against Roma, then CSKA Moscow drawing against Real Madrid would be sufficient, but if Plzen lose against Roma, CSKA Moscow must also lose their final game due to their superior goal difference compared to Benfica.
ACCEPTABLE SCORES: (Viktoria Plzen 0-0 Roma AND Real Madrid 0-0 CSKA. OR: Viktoria Plzen 0-1 Roma AND Real Madrid 1-0 CSKA).
From Group F, Shakhtar Donetsk must LOSE against Lyon AND Hoffenheim must fail to beat Manchester City. Simple, this one.
ACCEPTABLE SCORES: (Shakhtar 0-1 Lyon AND Manchester City 0-0 Hoffenheim).
This is by far the most unlikely of the necessary scenarios but, from Group H, Valencia must LOSE against Manchester United by at least 5 goals AND score no more goals than Benfica do against AEK Athens.
ACCEPTABLE SCORES (Manchester United 5-0 Valencia)
If, by some miracle, all three of these different things happen, Benfica will scrape into that fourth spot in the 3rd place rankings:
If Benfica WIN
Even if Benfica manage to secure victory over AEK Athens, that still may not be enough to be seeded for the Europa League first knockout round. Two of the following three things must still happen if Benfica are to be seeded:
From Group G, if Viktoria Plzen win against Roma, their scale of victory must be no more than 3 better than Benfica’s winning margin (ie. if Plzen win 5-0, Benfica must win at least 2-0). If Plzen fail to win, Benfica need CSKA Moscow to also fail to beat Real Madrid, OR they will need to better CSKA Moscow’s scale of victory by at least 2 (ie if CSKA beat Real Madrid 1-0, Benfica must beat AEK at least 3-0).
From Group F, Shakhtar Donetsk must fail to beat Lyon. Again, group F is very simple!
From Group H, Valencia must either fail to beat Manchester United, OR if Valencia do win, Benfica need to win and ensure there is a six-goal swing (Ie. If Valencia win 1-0, Benfica must win 6-0).
Remember, only two of these three things have to happen and therefore, even if Valencia beat Manchester United and Benfica fail to secure the improbable 6-0 victory over AEK Athens, so long as Plzen and CSKA Moscow both fail to win their difficult matches and Shakhtar Donetsk also fail to beat Lyon, that is enough for Benfica to be seeded.