Europa League Groupof Death
League for the first time ever this autumn, and they have be rewarded with a place in this year’s so-called ‘Group of Death’ against three sides which are all tipped as potentially competition winners. Lviv are the rant outsiders in a group which includes French mega-club Paris Saint-Germain, German former Champions League winners Borussia Dortmund and Spanish outfit Sevilla FC, a club which has won the UEFA Cup on two separate occasions in the past five seasons.
Perhaps the pick of the ties will be the final round of matches which sees French side PSG visit Lviv’s Ukraina Stadium for a mid-December fixture which few at the Paris club will relish. As Karpaty prepares for the campaign ahead and the city braces itself for an autumn of football fun we take a look at Lviv’s three coming Europa League opponents:
Although they were the first German side to win a European trophy (The European Cup Winner’s Cup in 1966), Borussia fans had to wait until the 1990s for the zenith of the club’s fortunes. After reaching a UEFA Cup final in 1993 the club won back-to-back German league titles in 1995 and 1996 before adding the Champions League in 1997. That 1997 success remains the high point in the club’s history, but while Borussia has failed to maintain such achievements in the past decade, the club still claims to be the best supported in Europe with average attendances of over 77,000 recorded in the 2007-8 season. The club’s huge and cavernous Signal Iduna Park stadium, which is named after a local insurance company and which can accommodate just over 81,000 fans, is one of the biggest in Europe and was a prominent venue during the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany. The current Borussia side laboured to 5th place in last season’s Bundesliga, faltering at the last moment and thereby missing out on Champions League football after failing to win either of their final two matches. Much will depend on the form and influence of club captain Sebastian Kehl and Paraguayan striker Lucas Barrios, who completed his first season for the club last year with a respectable 19 goals in 33 matches.
Over the past decade Spanish side Sevilla made a habit of excelling in the Europa League’s predecessor contest, the UEFA Cup. Sevilla actually won the trophy in 2006 and 2007, becoming only the second side in European football history to successfully defend the UEFA Cup (Real Madrid having performed a similar feat in 1985 and 1986). This double success remains by some distance the high water mark in the club’s history, but Lviv will nevertheless be faced by a side of veteran European campaigners led by Brazilian striker Luis Fa- biano. The club finished a credible fourth in Spain’s La Liga in 2009-10 but failed to capitalise on a place in the Champions League qualifying stages, forcing them to compete in the more familiar environs of the Europa League. Sevilla fans will have happy memories of Ukraine – the club enjoyed one of its most memorable UEFA Cup nights in 2007 when they faced Shakhtar Donetsk in a thrilling Donbass second leg tie which is best remembered for goalkeeper Andreas Palop scoring a dramatic injury time equalizer which forced the tie into extra time. Lviv’s supporters will be hoping that Karpaty can help restore national pride and exact revenge on Sevilla for that last gasp victory.
The poster boys of the French capital have never matched their boardroom swagger with on-thefield success, but nevertheless remain seasoned European campaigners whose Parc des Princes home ground is one of the most boisterous venues in the competition for opposing teams to visit. Nevertheless, there is no esc aping the fact that this is by no means a particularly impressive PSG vintage – the club finished a disappointing 13th in the French first division last season and only managed to scrape into the Europa League thanks to a French Cup triumph. Of the three sides awaiting Karpaty in this season’s group stages, the Frenchmen look to be the most vulnerable. With the Ukrainian leg of the two side’s two matches scheduled for the middle of darkest December, Lviv can at least promise the French footballing aristocrats a warm winter welcome.