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Europa League group stage - Best and worst case scenarios for Porto, Sporting, Braga, Guimaraes and Wolves

Europa League group stage - Best and worst case scenarios for Porto, Sporting, Braga, Guimaraes and Wolves

Portugal are one of just four nations to be able to claim that all of their clubs remain in continental competition heading into the group stage.

Only Spain, England and Germany match Portugal’s record with regards to their representation on the European stage, showing how well Portuguese clubs have performed so far this campaign.

And with the Europa League draw set to take place, here we look at the best and worst case scenario for each of the five Portuguese clubs, as well as Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The pots

When we say “best” and “worst” case scenario, we are purely basing it on the quality of opposition. For example, it is common knowledge that many Wolves fans are hoping to be drawn with FC Porto due to the connection between the two clubs, though based on quality alone and therefore the desire to get the easiest possible draw, Porto are likely one of the sides Wolves would actually want to avoid.

In any case, here are the four pots in their entirety:

POT 1: Sevilla, Arsenal, FC Porto, Manchester United, Roma, Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas, Basel, Sporting CP, CSKA Moscow, VfL Wolfsburg, Lazio.

POT 2: PSV, Krasnodar, Celtic, Copenhagen, Braga, Gent, Borussia Monchengladbach, Young Boys, Astana, Ludogorets, APOEL, Eintracht Frankfurt.

POT 3: Saint-Etienne, Qarabag, Feyenoord, Getafe, Espanyol, Malmo, Partizan, Standard Liege, Wolves, Rennes, Rosenborg, Istanbul Basaksehir.

POT 4: AZ, Vitoria Guimaraes, Oleksandriya, Dudelange, LASK, Wolfsberger, Slovan Bratislava, Lugano, Rangers, Cluj, Ferencvaros.

FC Porto and Sporting CP

Both Porto and Sporting are in pot 1, meaning that they will each be looking to avoid the same sides in the draw on Friday.

The fact that they are both pot 1 is excellent for them, meaning that they are able to avoid some of the hardest possible teams, such as Sevilla, Arsenal, Roma and Manchester United, though there still some difficult sides available in pots 2 and 3.

Worst-case scenario

From pot 2, one of the sides Porto and Sporting will both be hoping to avoid is likely to be Krasnodar, the team who knocked Porto out of the Champions League only a matter of weeks ago. Porto, however, may be keen for revenge, and would therefore be extra motivated to defeat Krasnodar next time around.

They would also rather avoid having to face last season’s semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt, while PSV could also cause teams a lot of problems. As such, it is quite clear that there are some tough opponents waiting in pot 2.

With regards to pot 3, there is one name that immediately stands out as being tougher than the rest - Wolverhampton Wanderers. Having won each of their 6 Europa League games so far this campaign, they are a team to fear, and every side from pot 1 would love to avoid having to face them.

There are others to avoid from pot 3 too though. Getafe, for example, came so close to qualifying for the Champions League last season, and have therefore shown themselves to be a highly competent team, while Saint-Etienne are also one that would provide stern opposition.

And finally from pot 4, there are perhaps three that they will be hoping to avoid - AZ, Trabzonspor and Rangers. Trabzonspor, as a Turkish side, are bound to be incredibly tricky customers, while facing Rangers away from home can be a daunting prospect. The others from pot 4 shouldn’t cause too many problems.


  • FC PORTO, Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolves, AZ.

  • SPORTING CP, PSV, Getafe, Trabzonspor.

Best-case scenario

With regards to Porto and Sporting, the chances of either of them getting highly menacing groups are pretty thin. As pot 1 sides, the heavy-hitters in the Europa League group stage are generally avoided.

As such, from pot 2, there are few sides that will scare either of them, and perhaps the best possible draw would be APOEL. Not having to face a particularly lengthy trip, which drawing Astana or Krasnodar would provide, APOEL are also far from the strongest side, and although they have Champions League pedigree, both Sporting and Porto would go in as favourites against them.

Additionally, neither would be particularly upset about drawing Ludogorets, who also have a fair bit of Champions League experience to their name. Nevertheless, of all the pot 2 sides, they could quite feasibly be seen as one of the weaker possible opponents.

In terms of pot 3, there are again some possible stand-out preferred sides to draw - more specifically, one of Rosenborg, Standard Liege or Malmo. None of them play in particularly strong domestic leagues, and none have any significant continental success of note from the past couple of decades, and Porto and Sporting should really be beating all of them.

And that brings us to pot 4, where there is generally minimal quality overall. Nevertheless, perhaps the easiest possible draw would be one of the likes of Ferencvaros, Lugano, Wolfsberger, or Dudelange. Ferencvaros may have won the Hungarian league last season, though this is the first time they have made it to the group stage of European competition since 2004-05, and only had to beat Lithuanian outfit Suduva to do so. Prior to that, they lost to Dinamo Zagreb 5-1 on aggregate in the Champions League 3rd qualifying round.


  • FC PORTO, Ludogorets, Standard Liege, Lugano.

  • SPORTING CP, APOEL, Qarabag, Ferencvaros.

SC Braga

Braga, who were in pot 1 last time they qualified for the Europa League group stage, are only in pot 2 this time around, the joint third best team in their particular pot according to the UEFA coefficient club rankings.

The fact that they are only in pot 2 means that they can be drawn against some tricky outfits from pot 1.

Worst case scenario

One such example of that would be multiple-time champions Sevilla, who seem to produce some of their best stuff in the Europa League. Arsenal are another side who would quite understandably cause Braga, known in Portugal as the Arsenalistas, huge problems in the Europa League group stage.

From pot 3, as previously pointed out, Wolves are the main side to avoid, Wolves the standout team from that pot. Assuming Porto draw Wolves though, and Sporting get Getafe, you could point to one of Saint-Etienne, Espanyol or Feyenoord as the next hardest side for Braga to face.

And from pot 4, it again comes down to one of three - AZ, Tranzonspor, or Rangers. If Braga avoid all those three, they will be relatively happy with how the draw turned out.


  • For Braga: Sevilla, BRAGA, Wolves, Trabzonspor*

  • For Portuguese football: Arsenal, BRAGA, Feyenoord, Rangers.*

*Arsenal, BRAGA, Wolves and Trabzonspor would likely be deemed the actual hardest possible draw for Braga on paper. However, following on from the article, assuming Porto draw Wolves and Sporting draw Trabzonspor, the worst case scenario would then likely be Arsenal, BRAGA, Feyenoord, Rangers.

Best-case scenario

In terms of the best case scenario for Braga, there aren’t really any stand-out weaknesses in pot 1 - which is to be expected. However, you could argue that one of Basel or Dynamo Kiev, while being incredibly difficult opponents, are likely the ‘weakest’, at least on paper, of the options.

Meanwhile from pot 3, Braga would likely be hoping to draw one of Malmo, Rosenborg or Qarabag, though the latter do provide a long trip to Azerbaijan.

And finally, from pot 4, Braga won’t really fear too many sides, and so long as they avoid the three previously mentioned pot 4 clubs, they should be okay. To make their life as easy as possible, though, Luxembourg minnows Dudelange would likely be the best option.


  • Dyanmo Kiev, BRAGA, Malmo, Dudelange.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

While Porto and Sporting are in pot 1 and Braga in pot 2, Wolves are in a poorer starting position, going into the hat as one of the twelve pot 3 sides. It means that, at least on paper, they are pretty much guaranteed to be handed a tougher draw.

The upside? Wolves know that they are the team to be feared from pot 3, and no side in pots 1 and 2 will want to draw them. So whoever they are matched with, they go into the game as a highly respected, dangerous opponent.

Worst-case scenario

In terms of pot 1, Wolves do at least benefit from the fact that they cannot be drawn against a fellow English side, so avoid having to face one of Arsenal or Manchester United.

However, either of Porto or Sevilla would still provide stern competition for Wolves. Many Wolves fans would like to be tested against the best, of course, and Porto would be an ideal draw for a lot of the Wolves faithful, though if you were looking to simply to get the easiest possible group, Porto would certainly be one to avoid, and thus could be considered the worst-case scenario.

Meanwhile from pot 2, Wolves will for sure be looking to avoid Eintracht Frankfurt and PSV, particularly the former though, who reached the semi-final of the competition last season, beating Benfica en route. Similarly though, Borussia Monchengladbach, Celtic and Krasnodar would all also be tricky customers.

And finally, from pot 4, AZ and Trabzonspor are likely the sides Wolves would be most keen to avoid, both seemingly a level above most others in the bottom pot in the competition.


  • Porto, Eintracht Frankfurt, WOLVES, AZ.

Best case scenario

In terms of the best case scenario, from pot 1, Wolves would likely perform best if they were drawn against one of Dynamo Kiev or Basel, those two sides perhaps a level below the others in pot 1.

Then, from pot 2, one of Copenhagen, Gent or Astana could perhaps be seen as the easiest possible opponent, though Astana do provide a long trip to Kazakhstan.

And then, from pot 4, any of the likes of Dudelange, Wolfsberger, Lugano or Ferencvaros should be fine for Wolverhampton Wanderers.


  • Basel, Copenhagen, WOLVES, Wolfsberger.


Of all the sides of interest for Portuguese football fans, Vitoria Guimaraes certainly have the toughest task, being one of the twelve pot 4 sides, meaning they are not expected to realistically have a chance of making it out of their group.

Chances are, therefore, that they are going to be handed a rather tough group in their bid to cause an upset.

Worst case scenario

One of the positives for Guimaraes is they cannot play against Porto. Ultimately though, there are still several difficult pot 1 sides potentially awaiting them, such as Sevilla, Roma and Manchester United, and the La Liga outfit are perhaps as hard as they come.

From pot 2, they don’t come much harder than Bundesliga giants Borussia Monchengladbach, and they would go into a clash with the Portuguese side as heavy favourites. Krasnodar would also provide a very difficult test for Guimaraes.

And finally, from pot 3, Wolves would certainly be the hardest opponent. Assuming they are drawn with FC Porto though, it seems fair to say that Saint Etienne are perhaps the next most difficult.


  • Sevilla, Borussia Monchengladbach, Saint Etienne, GUIMARAES

Best case scenario

There is the (albeit slim) possibility that Guimaraes could actually be handed a group in which they could potentially fancy their chances.

From pot 1, for example, one of Kyiv, Basel, CSKA Moscow or Wolfsburg would be far from disastrous, while even Besiktas wouldn’t be as difficult as some potential opponents.

Then, from pot 2, one of Gent or APOEL would be a good draw for Guimaraes, who would give themselves a chance against either of them.

And finally, of the pot 3 options, if one of Qarabag, Malmo, Standard Liege or Rosenborg also joined the group, you would certainly give Guimaraes a chance of making the round of 32 for the first time in their history.


  • CSKA Moscow, Gent, Rosenborg, GUIMARAES

Predicting how the Europa League groups will finish

Predicting how the Europa League groups will finish

Champions League draw: Benfica handed tricky group

Champions League draw: Benfica handed tricky group