Malmö FF UCL Group Stage Preview
Malmö will no doubt see the back of the UEFA Champions League at the end of the group stage. The real question is whether they can continue their European quest in the Europa League. In a word, “no”.
Had this team been together at the start of the year, I likely would have said “maybe,” due to the tough group. The team is crazy-good at home. However, they are too far down in the domestic league to warrant really giving it a go in the group stage. The primary goal should be to secure European football next season so that the team can recruit, and more importantly (though perhaps futilely) keep the players they have. While Rosenberg is playing great, some attention should also be paid to securing his successor to a longterm deal (whomever that might be).
The tough group contains Real Madrid, PSG, and Shakhtar Donetsk. I’m not going to bother talking about PSG and Real Madrid. Evan even suggested MFF just give some of the fans a run out against Madrid (goal differential does matter though!). How they end up in the same group while group H is Zenit, Valencia, Lyon, and Gent is because UEFA now makes Pot 1 from the country champions rather than purely by coefficient. Since Real Madrid did not win their league, they are not in pot 1, despite having the overall coefficient. This is good for countries such as Russia and The Netherlands, but terrible for countries such as Sweden.
Shakhtar Donetsk does deserve some mention. First of all, people probably remember Shakhtar from their run to the Quarter-finals of the UCL in 2011…or perhaps winning the Europa League (last year of UEFA Cup, actually) in 2009. However, the next year after that run to the quarters they failed to make it out of the group. They once again failed to make it out of the group in 2014.
They also made headlines last year hanging 7 goals on BATE Borisov (who ended up finishing last in the group), but they still finished second in their group to Porto last year, with 9 points versus 14. That’s right, they only took 9 points of a possible 18. They then proceeded to make headlines by drawing Munich 0-0 and then even more headlines by giving up a touchdown and extra point (that’s 7, in case you are familiar with gridiron) to Munich in the return leg.
I’m belaboring this point, but I am afforded that luxury due to PSG and Real Madrid. The point is that Shakhtar is beatable. Malmö may well beat them in Sweden (and may well get absolutely tonked in Ukraine). I might even feel ok about MFF getting through to the Europa League if they weren’t mired in a disappointing domestic campaign. However, they are still 5 points off even a Europa League spot (even if the 4th spot does open up through the cup).
The good news for MFF fans is they play 3 of the 4 teams in front of them, meaning sneaking into a Europa League spot is definitely doable.
I will watch as many of the MFF group stage games as possible, but I don’t plan on previewing any of the games individually unless MFF springs a surprise, or if that Europa League spot this year looks up for grabs.
Despite some bad results last year, the group stage last year was fun. It’s a mostly new crop of players I’m still learning to love, but I think we’ll all learn a lot about them in the coming months.