Braga, Wolves and Guimaraes discover their potential Europa League play-off opponents
The draw for the Europa League play-off round has now been decided, with Braga, Wolves and Guimaraes discovering who is awaiting them in the next round of the European competition.
Both Wolves and Guimaraes know that they still have to go through an additional round of qualification to make it to the Europa League play-off, required to first overcome Pyunik and Ventspils respectively, while Braga must beat Brondby to advance to the play-off round.
Braga went into the hat as one of the seeded teams, meaning that they avoided what were on paper the harder teams in their group, not able to be drawn against the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt and Viktoria Plzen.
However, Braga will be disappointed to have been drawn against what looks to be the hardest possible opponent in Spartak Moscow, the Russian champions of 2017 seemingly a level above the other sides Braga could have been drawn against.
Braga’s best possible draw, again on paper, would have been one of Nefci or Bnei Yehuda, but instead Braga will likely need to overcome Spartak Moscow to be able to advance to the Europa League group stage.
There is always a slim chance that a meeting with Spartak will never transpire though, with the Russian outfit having to first overcome Swiss side FC Thun to advance to the Europa League play-off. That, however, seems likely.
Braga are ultimately representing Portugal’s UEFA Coefficient by participating in European competition, and Portugal are currently embroiled in a bit of a battle with Russia to secure the all important 6th place spot in the coefficient rankings. If Portugal were to leapfrog Russia into 6th in the rankings, they would obtain an additional Champions League berth in future seasons, which would in turn increase Braga’s chances of qualifying for Europe’s most prestigious competition.
As such, a clash with Spartak Moscow would have even higher stakes than first meets the eye, and they would provide a huge test for Braga over two legs. A long trip to Russia is never ideal, and they don’t come much harder than the 2017 Russian Premier League champions either
Meanwhile, Wolves, who were also seeded for the draw, have been drawn against one of Torino or Shakhtyor Soligorsk, the former by far the most likely to be Wolves’ adversary.
The Italian side were undoubtedly the club Wolves were looking to avoid in the draw, on paper the toughest unseeded team left in the hat. As a result, Wolves’ chances of reaching the group stage of the Europa League have reduced somewhat.
They would likely rather have had any of the other three draws instead, giving them the best possible chance of guaranteeing a place in the group stage.
That said, Wolves still go into the match as favourites, and with a strong squad that has shown their capabiltiies of beating even the very best of sides, will have no fear.
Finally, Vitoria Guimaraes, should they get through their clash with Ventspils, will have to take on and beat one of FCSB or Mlada Boleslav in order to reach the Europa League group stage.
They will be quietly content with that draw as, while they will go into a clash with likely winners FCSB as underdogs, the draw means that they have avoided having to play either PSV or Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were deemed the two hardest seeded sides they could have faced.
Torino or Shakhtyor Soligorsk vs Wolverhampton Wanderers or Pyunik
FCSB or Mlada Boleslav vs Vitoria Guimaraes or Ventspils
FC Braga or Brondby vs FC Thun or Spartak Moscow.