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What to look out for on UEFA Europa Conference League Matchday 4

West Ham, Villarreal and AZ Alkmaar all have nine points after three matchdays, but they are not the only teams enjoying their adventure in this season's UEFA Europa Conference League group stage.

AZ's Dani de Wit, West Ham's Gianluca Scamacca and Villarreal's Morales
AZ's Dani de Wit, West Ham's Gianluca Scamacca and Villarreal's Morales

Three sides boast a full complement of nine points after the first three UEFA Europa Conference League group stage games, but perhaps more significantly, every single team has something to play for as closing phase begins.

In this piece presented by Enterprise, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the fixtures.

How qualifying for the knockouts works

The eight group winners automatically go through to the last 16. The line-up is then completed via knockout round play-offs contested before the round of 16, with the eight group runners-up drawn against third-ranked teams from the UEFA Europa League groups.

Thursday 13 October
Group A: İstanbul Başakşehir vs RFS (18:45), Fiorentina vs Hearts (18:45)
Group B
: FCSB vs Silkeborg (21:00), West Ham vs Anderlecht (21:00)
Group C
: Austria Wien vs Villarreal (18:45), H. Beer-Sheva vs Lech (21:00)
Group D
: Partizan vs Köln (18:45), Nice vs Slovácko (21:00)
Group E
: Apollon Limassol vs AZ Alkmaar (18:45), Vaduz vs Dnipro-1 (21:00)
Group F
: Djurgården vs Gent (18:45), Shamrock Rovers vs Molde (21:00)
Group G
: CFR Cluj vs Slavia Praha (18:45), Ballkani vs Sivasspor (21:00)
Group H
: Slovan Bratislava vs Basel (18:45), Žalgiris vs Pyunik (21:00)

What to look out for

Highlights: Anderlecht 0-1 West Ham

Three teams chasing four wins from four
After Matchday 3, only three clubs can point to a 100% record in this season's Europa Conference League group stage: AZ Alkmaar, Villarreal and West Ham. All three find themselves in similar situations ahead of Matchday 4: each of them top their sections with nine points, while their closest pursuers lie five points back on four.

This perfect trio can all book tickets to the spring phase of the competition if they win on Thursday, with West Ham having the additional guarantee of top spot if they can overcome Anderlecht in another rematch of the 1976 European Cup Winners' Cup final (which the Belgian side won 4-2). A 1-0 victory in Brussels augurs well for the east London side, but manager David Moyes added a note of caution after the match: "We aren't in the dressing room shouting and waving flags because we respect we have to play them again."

Highlights: Villarreal 5-0 Austria Wien

Yellow Submariners cutting loose
If Villarreal are one of three sides to have 100% records at this stage, they are in a field of their own when it comes to goalscoring: the top scorers in this season's group stage with 11 goals, the 2020/21 Europa League winners also boast the competition's leading marksmen in Álex Baena and Morales, both of whom have delivered four goals and an assist.

On Matchday 3, Morales became the first player to score a hat-trick in this season's competition, earning praise from coach Unai Emery: "When you put José in front of goal, he finds the net easily." However, as Austria Wien brace themselves for another meeting with Villarreal, they may have more reason to fear Álex Baena: the 21-year-old scored a beauty in Spain last time out and is being linked to high-profile clubs in England.

Highlights: Sivasspor 3-4 Ballkani

Ballkani out to complete famous double
The mission of the Europa Conference League is to give more teams from more UEFA member associations the chance to play European football, and the 2022/23 edition has brought inspiring examples of what sides from less prominent nations can achieve. Kosovo's first group stage contenders, Ballkani raised the bar on Matchday 3 when they won 4-3 at Sivasspor, and they top a tight Group G ahead of the rematch in Pristina. "Some excellent football was played," beamed coach Ilir Daja at full time in Turkey. "Frankly, I couldn't contain my excitement."

Crucially, Ballkani are not the only club enjoying their adventure. Every single team in the group stage has picked up at least one point in their first three games, and all go into Matchday 4 with some hope of making it to the next phase.

When are the remaining Europa Conference League group stage games?

Matchday 5: 27 October 2022
Matchday 6: 3 November 2022

Highlights: Slavia Praha 4-1 LASK

Further ahead
• Continuing the format from last season, Europa Conference League group winners are guaranteed a place in the round of 16, with the draw taking place on 24 February next year.

• The runners-up in the eight Europa Conference League sections progress to the knockout round play-offs, where they will tackle one of the teams that finish third in the Europa League groups. That draw takes place in Nyon on 7 November.

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. Another showpiece game at the stadium also went the distance two years later, Sweden seeing off Portugal 4-3 on spot kicks in the 2015 Under-21 EURO final.