Fiorentina and İstanbul Başakşehir are vying for a golden ticket on UEFA Europa Conference League Matchday 6, while there are existential crises for Köln, Nice and final hosts Slavia Praha.
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West Ham, Villarreal and Djurgården are the only confirmed group winners heading into Matchday 6 of the UEFA Europa Conference League, with a huge amount to fight for on the final night of the group phase.
In this piece presented by Enterprise, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the fixtures.
Thursday 3 November
Group A: RFS vs Fiorentina (16:30), İstanbul Başakşehir vs Hearts (16:30)
Group B: FCSB vs West Ham (21:00), Silkeborg vs Anderlecht (21:00)
Group C: Lech vs Villarreal (21:00), Hapoel Beer-Sheva vs Austria Wien (21:00)
Group D: Partizan vs Slovácko (21:00), Köln vs Nice (21:00)
Group E: Apollon Limassol vs Vaduz (18:45), AZ Alkmaar vs Dnipro-1 (18:45)
Group F: Djurgården vs Shamrock Rovers (18:45), Gent vs Molde (18:45)
Group G: Slavia Praha vs Sivasspor (18:45), CFR Cluj vs Ballkani (18:45)
Group H: Žalgiris vs Slovan Bratislava (18:45), Pyunik vs Basel (18:45)
All times CET
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.
What to look out for
Köln and Nice face grandstand finish
Bundesliga side Köln lie third in Group D after a complicated Matchday 5 win at Slovácko; the game was suspended after seven minutes due to thick fog, then completed the following day, with the 'Carnival Club' having a penalty saved before Ondrej Duda's 82nd-minute goal secured a 1-0 victory. They now trail their next guests, group leaders Nice, by just a point, but with Partizan level with Nice on eight as they host eliminated Slovácko, neither Köln nor Nice can afford to slip up.
Nice boss Lucien Favre knows German football well from his spells at Hertha Berlin, Mönchengladbach and Dortmund, and his team have some momentum behind them after a 2-1 win against Partizan. It was the first Group D game in which they had scored more than once. "We had a few chances that we didn't convert," Favre said. "That's the way it is. At least we created them. That's the basis of what I want for the future." He can only hope that his players have their shooting boots on in Cologne.
Fiorentina face race for first place
The Viola avenged a 3-0 loss to İstanbul Başakşehir with a 2-1 success on Matchday 5 but remain second in Group A on head-to-head-record, with both sides having ten points. Sure to finish at least second, Fiorentina head to Riga to take on eliminated RFS in their final game hoping a win (and a slip-up for Başakşehir) will give them top spot in the section and allow them to bypass the knockout round play-offs.
"Obviously, we still believe we can finish in first place," midfielder Sofyan Amrabat told UEFA.com. "Maybe it's a cliché, but in football anything can happen." However, as Başakşehir welcome Hearts, with the Scottish club already certain to finish third, midfielder Deniz Türüç insisted Emre Belözoğlu's men would not be taking their eyes off the ball: "We are still first in the group and we will do everything we can to be first [after Matchday 6] too."
Slavia hanging by a thread
With their Eden Arena stadium staging the final on 7 June 2023, it could be argued that no side craves Europa Conference League success this season quite like Slavia Praha. Perhaps tellingly, they have had 118 shots on goal in their five group stage games: 25 more than their nearest rivals Fiorentina. However, with only five goals scored, they welcome Group G leaders Sivasspor lying third in the table and desperate for a win.
The maths is complicated: Slavia are level on seven points with CFR Cluj, and if both those teams win on Matchday 6, all the top three sides in the section would have ten points, and Slavia would miss out on qualification. Ultimately, Slavia must win and hope eliminated Ballkani take at least a point in Romania. "It's not good news," said Slavia boss Jindřich Trpišovský. "We have to beat Sivasspor and hope for help from Ballkani. However, Cluj are strong at home."
• The eight group winners enter the Europa Conference League round of 16 draw on 24 February, where they will be paired with one of the eight winners from the Europa Conference League knockout round. Group winners play the second leg at home.
• The runners-up from the eight groups will join the eight third-placed finishers from the Europa League groups in the Europa Conference League knockout round play-off draw on Monday 7 November. Winners advance to the round of 16.
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.