UEFA Leagues #7-15 Wknd Preview (5/5-6) – the Contenders get their due!

Welcome to the weekend preview for what Noob is tentatively referring to as “UEFA’s Next Up-Leagues”.  I’m open to name suggestions.  These are leagues ranked #7-15, the ones that get precisely two Champions League invitations.

The ones above get three or four, those below get one.  Some are leagues that have slipped, others are up-and comers.  You can find previews on the very top leagues most anywhere.

(Note:  The ranking is UEFA’s coefficient ranking used strictly for determining how many clubs get CL invites for two years out.  This is not a valuation of the strength of the depth of the leagues.  Points toward the ranking are only earned through CL and Europa League participation.)

Noob composed this for a third party site, though it doesn’t appear to have made their cut.  This in many ways resembles the ’10 to Track’ format, and I ask that Noobites forgive any match-overlap.

Let’s visit the Contenders!

LEAGUE SPOTLIGHT

League:  Primeira Liga, Portugal

UEFA:    #7

Match:  Sporting Lisbon vs. Benfica  (Saturday, 5/5)

Table:  Porto – 82, Benfica – 77, Sporting Lisbon – 77, Braga – 74

This league got passed by Russia’s Premier in 2017-18.  The gap isn’t huge, but Portugal has no clubs left in the current Champions League or Europa, so we won’t see a change.  Their hopes of climbing back up rest on the same three historically powerful clubs.

This match features two of them, and there are scant few matches left to be played.  Benfica lost their last match at home to #10 Tondela.  They can blame getting assigned to EL instead of CL squarely there if that comes to pass.

Sporting Lisbon, meanwhile, have won every league match in April!  The competition hasn’t been the fiercest, but that’s still quite a streak, and they’ve managed it with both low- and high-scoring matches.  They’re every bit as good on defense as their visitors today, and score in absolute droves.  They’d be favored even on a neutral field.

Key Player:          Bas Dost – Sporting Lisbon

The Dutch striker has averaged more than a goal per match in which he’s played this season.  Sporting want this to be a shootout, and Dost’s will be prominently involved if that happens.

Prediction:          Sporting 3-1

 

Ukraine Premier League – Shakhtar Donestsk vs. Zorya Luhansk  (Saturday, 5/5)

Ukraine’s is a two-horse league – today’s hosts and Dynamo Kyiv.  Both have already qualified for Champions League.  Shakhtar lead Dynamo by just three in the table, and only the league winner will qualify directly to the Group Stage.

Zorya are in 4th, qualified to EL.  If they can get to 3rd, they make the Group Stage specifically.  They only trail 3rd-place Vorskla Potlava by a point.  It’s hard to see them making up ground today though.  They have trouble on defense for a top club here, and no one’s been stopping Shakhtar’s scorers all season.

 

Belgium First Division A – Club Brugge vs. Anderlecht  (Saturday, 5/5)

Four matches to go, five points separate these two in the table.  Anderlecht have two rivals for the second CL invite, so the pressure is squarely on them.  Brugge is the offensive behemoth of this league, while Anderlecht have been getting by comparatively on gut and grit, taking close games all season.

The good news for Anderlecht?  Brugge’s been playing just .500 ball since the league regular season ended and the clubs divided into championship and relegation playoff subdivisions.  The bad news?  They’ve only been .500 themselves.

 

Super Lig, Turkey – Istanbul Basaksehir vs. Sivasspor  (Saturday, 5/5)

Welcome to the most dramatic league finish in Europe this season.  They’ve even got it over on Italy.  Four clubs are separated by just four points for the title.  More, the 3rd and 4th place teams have played as many as three fewer matches than the clubs above them.  Anarchy!

#1 Galatasaray just beat #4 Besiktas Sunday, 4/29 to retake that position, but they’ve played the most matches.  None of the Big Four play one another this week.  So the key match this one, because #7 Sivasspor represents the best chance of an upset.

 

Austria Bundesliga – LASK Linz vs. Rapid Wien  (Saturday, 5/5)

We’ve now reached a point in the UEFA rankings where neither club going to CL qualifies directly to the Group Stage.

Neither of these clubs – #3 and #4 in the table, respectively – is likely to catch Sturm Graz and snag a CL berth.  They have already both clinched EL invites though.  Whichever can stay #3 has to play one less qualifying round there.

Rapid Wein have laid waste to the lesser teams of the league.  LASK Linz should be able to take care of business at home today…if they can score at all.  It’s been there weakness, and a big one.

 

Switzerland Super League – St. Gallen vs. Basel  (Sunday, 5/6)

Basel have already clinched 2nd place (and cannot catch 1st) and their CL slot.  Will they be less than motivated going forward?  Basel sure hopes so.  They’re in 4th and in line for EL, but haven’t clinched even that yet.  They trail Luzern by just one, so could get 3rd and skip a qualifying round.  But Zurich lurk only four more back.

Truth be told, St. Gallen’s overachieved to this point.  They’re defense is [insert lame Swiss cheese joke HERE].  Zurich will catch them.

 

Czech First League – Sparta Praha vs. Viktoria Plzen

Praha = Prague.  Plzen is pronounced “pl-zen-yuh”, as the n should have a mark above it that my touch keyboard doesn’t list amongst its special characters.

Language lessons aside, this is the best league in Europe you hear absolutely zilch about.  Plzen are about to live up to their victorious-moniker and clinch, up nine on 2nd place Slavia Praha with just four matches to go.  Sparta Praha are in 5th, clinging precariously to the league’s last EL spot in a tight bunch on both sides of them.

 

Eredivisie, Netherlands – Heerenveen vs. Feyenoord

Everyone seems so surprised the Dutch men’s national team didn’t qualify for World Cup this year.  Don’t be.  Their domestic teams have been abysmal in international play this season.

Just one match to go!  Feyenoord won the KNVB (FA) Cup, and so qualified then for EL, there they’ll be.  The next four teams in the table will vie postseason for the leagues last Europa invitation.  Even a draw today all but guarantees Heerenveen a place in that playoff.  A loss and they open the door to get jumped by ADO Den Haag.

 

Superleague Greece – Pas Giannina vs. Olympiakos

Congrats!   You’ve made It to league #15 in UEFA.  Croatia (who probably pass them next year) on down only get one representative each in Champions League.

All the European League spots have been claimed here, so the drama’s actually all gone out of this league.  In the table, anyway.  So far this season, #2 team’s owner angrily stormed the pitch twice in a single match with a holstered handgun plainly visible.  And Olympiakos’ fans are so unruly, the league docked them three points in the table.  Never know what you’re getting in Greece.

#3 Olympiakos would be really hot about that deduction if it had cost them a Champions League berth.  This is the last match of the season and they’re behind #2 by four though.  None of the top clubs here have tough matchups today.  Pas Giannina are #11 and host, represent the best chance at an upset this weekend.

Author: Soccernoob

After a year of previewing soccer matches the world over with my own off-brand comedy, I now provide exclusive coverage for the Isle of Sodor Premier League, Championship, and FA Cup. (FC Dryaw 'til I die.)

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