Former UEFA Cup Winners' Cup finalists renew acquaintances, Köln and Partizan meet again, and Mikael Ishak seeks to maintain his prolific European form.
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No fewer than 52 goals were scored across the 16 UEFA Europa Conference League Matchday 2 encounters, and there will be plenty more to come as the group stage heads for its halfway point.
In this piece presented by Enterprise, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the next round of fixtures.
How qualifying for the knockouts works
The eight group winners automatically go through to the last 16. Additional knockout round play-offs between the eight group runners-up and the third-ranked teams from the UEFA Europa League groups will then be played before the round of 16.
Thursday 6 October
Group A: Hearts vs Fiorentina (21:00), RFS vs İstanbul Başakşehir (21:00)
Group B: Anderlecht vs West Ham (18:45), Silkeborg vs FCSB (18:45)
Group C: Lech vs H. Beer-Sheva (18:45), Villarreal vs Austria Wien (21:00)
Group D: Slovácko vs Nice (18:45), Köln vs Partizan (21:00)
Group E: Dnipro-1 vs Vaduz (18:45), AZ Alkmaar vs Apollon Limassol (21:00)
Group F: Molde vs Shamrock Rovers (18:45), Gent vs Djurgården (21:00)
Group G: Sivasspor vs Ballkani (18:45), Slavia Praha vs CFR Cluj (21:00)
Group H: Pyunik vs Žalgiris (18:45), Basel vs Slovan Bratislava (21:00)
What to look out for
1976 finalists meet again
Following back-to-back wins over FCSB and Silkeborg in their opening two group games, West Ham head to Brussels to face Anderlecht in a repeat of the 1976 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final. A Hammers side featuring Trevor Brooking and Frank Lampard Sr were beaten 4-2 at Heysel Stadium 46 years ago, in what remains their last major European final appearance.
Like David Moyes' team, Anderlecht have made an underwhelming start to their domestic campaign but are hot on West Ham's heels in Europe with four points from their two matches so far. Felice Mazzù's side have yet to concede a goal in Group B but their goalless draw at FCSB on Matchday 2 extended their patchy form to one victory in seven games across all competitions.
Ljubicic leading the way at Köln
Speaking of rematches, Köln and Partizan have also locked horns before – in the last 16 of the 1974/75 UEFA Cup. The 'Billy Goats' triumphed 5-2 on aggregate and went on to reach the semi-finals of the competition, where they lost out to North Rhine-Westphalia rivals and eventual winners Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Midfielder Dejan Ljubicic continued his recent purple patch in Köln's Matchday 2 victory at home to Slovácko. The 24-year-old Austrian has netted five goals in seven starts across all competitions this term – two more than he managed in 32 appearances last season – and was recently hailed as the club's "new leader" by local media. Coach Steffen Baumgart was no less complementary, saying Ljubicic has improved "exquisitely" this season.
Ishak out to continue impact
All eyes will be on Lech Poznań's Mikael Ishak when the Polish side play host to Hapoel Beer-Sheva. The in-form Swedish striker has had a direct hand in five goals (three goals, two assists) in Lech's two group games so far, more than any other player in the competition.
Including qualifying matches, the Stockholm-born marksman has registered 14 goals in 19 European outings for the club since joining from Nürnberg over two years ago. He was Lech's top scorer in the Europa League in 2020/21, scoring five times in six group matches – although it was not enough to prevent them from finishing bottom of their section. Suffice to say, Hapoel will need to be on their toes.
When are the Europa Conference League group stage games being played?
Matchday 4: 13 October 2022
Matchday 5: 27 October 2022
Matchday 6: 3 November 2022
• This week's ties are reversed on Matchday 4, by which time the likes of İstanbul Başakşehir, West Ham, Villarreal, AZ Alkmaar and Basel – all of whom boast perfect records so far – may be looking to confirm their places in the knockout stages.
• After all four found the net on Matchday 2, Ishak, Villarreal's Álex Baena, Fousseni Diabate of Partizan and Jan Kalabiška of Slovácko remain locked on three goals going into Matchday 3. Who will begin to pull away as the group stage progresses?
• Group G leaders Slavia Praha registered no fewer than 54 attempts at goal across their opening two matches – at least ten more than any other side in the competition. If the Czech side can maintain that attacking impetus, they could go very far indeed.
Where is the 2023 UEFA Europa Conference League final being played?
The Eden Arena in Prague, Czechia, has been selected to host this season's Europa Conference League final on 7 June 2023.
The 2013 UEFA Super Cup took place at the Eden Arena, with Bayern defeating Chelsea 5-4 on penalties following a 2-2 draw over 120 minutes, and a showpiece game also went the distance two years later in the 2015 Under-21 EURO final, Sweden seeing off Portugal 4-3 on spot kicks.