The Europa League group stage is over, and all fixtures have been played bar Group I, where Villarreal's clash with Qarabag was postponed. Arsenal maintained their perfect record in Group B; AC Milan snatched top spot in Group H from Lille; and Bayer Leverkusen blasted their way to top spot in Group C on Thursday.
In Group F, Napoli and Real Sociedad advanced at AZ Alkmaar's expense; Tottenham Hotspur and Royal Antwerp make up Group J's top two; and PSV Eindhoven secured first place in Group E. Elsewhere, Leicester City edged Braga in Group G, while Rangers finished atop Group D. Young Boys joined Roma in the knockout phase from Group A, and Group K saw Wolfsberger join Dinamo Zagreb. Hoffenheim added gloss to their first-place finish in Group L.
Here are some tops and flops from the final round of Europa League group stage games.
3 - Arsenal are the first team to have three English players aged 21 or younger (Balogun, Willock & Nketiah) score in a major UEFA European match since Spurs in 1982 vs Coleraine (Garry Brooke, Terry Gibson & Gary Mabbutt). Lions.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 10, 2020
The Gunners maintained their 100% record with a 4-2 win away at Dundalk that saw them finish eight points clear of second-place Molde. Edward Nketiah, Mohamed Elneny, Joseph Willock and Folarin Balogun all scored as Mikel Arteta's men boosted their goal difference up to +15. Few teams will want to draw the Premier League outfit in the latter stages.
Winless, pointless and with just four goals scored all group stage, it was an utterly miserable European campaign for Gent who have been unable to recover from their messy managerial situation back in the summer. Considering their league position in Belgium, they will not be making an immediate return -- unless there is a miracle turnaround.
The Italians' 1-0 win away at Sparta Prague coupled with Lille's 3-2 loss away at Celtic ensured that the Serie A side finished top of Group I with Jens Petter Hauge the hero with the only goal. Both Milan and LOSC will be two of the sides to watch out for in the knockout phase and certainly two names that will be expected to continue on a deep run towards the Gdansk final.
Not much better than Gent, the Bulgarians also finished with zero points but scored a few goals more -- even if they also conceded a greater number than the Belgians. Formerly a tricky outfit to face in the Champions League, the Razgrad side have added to Eastern Europe's continental struggles this season.
The Germans hosted Slavia Prague level on points in Group C and proceeded to stick four past the Czech outfit to finish with a total of 21 goals scored and 15 points from a possible 18. Leon Bailey scored twice while Moussa Diaby and Karim Bellarabi also got in on the act and Peter Bosz's men will be another side to watch out for in the latter stages.
Group C opponents Nice withered and died after an early pasting from Leverkusen and Patrick Vieira recently lost his job as coach. What should have been a top-two squad finished as bottom of the group with one solitary win and deteriorating domestic form to arrest to save their campaign.
The Dutch giants hit four at home to Omonia Nicosia to beat Granada to top spot in Group E at the last moment possible. Donyell Malen, Denzel Dumfries and a Joel Piroe brace did the job for Roger Schmidt's men at Philips Stadion and they are another big name to keep an eye on.
Flops: AZ and Feyenoord
Both of PSV's fellow Dutch teams went out on Thursday with AZ agonizingly knocked down to third in Group F at the death and Feyenoord went out with a whimper against Wolfsberg in Group K. The two were arguably good enough to advance from the positions they started the evening in and ended up costing the Eredivisie two representatives.
Vinicius and Giovani Lo Celso got the job done for Jose Mourinho's men in the second half against already-qualified Antwerp and now they will be looking to work their way to the final as the Portuguese manager did with Manchester United back in 2017.