Can Cody Gakpo and Marcus Rashford keep making headlines in the UEFA Europa League group stage? And who might qualify for the next phase on Thursday night?
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The 2022/23 UEFA Europa League group stage is moving into its decisive phase, with qualification for the knockout rounds a real possibility for a number of sides on Matchday 4.
In this piece presented by Enterprise, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the fourth set of fixtures.
Thursday 6 October
Group A: Bodø/Glimt vs Arsenal (18:45), PSV Eindhoven vs Zürich (21:00)
Group B: AEK Larnaca vs Fenerbahçe (18:45), Dynamo Kyiv vs Rennes (18:45)
Group C: Real Betis vs Roma (18:45), Ludogorets vs HJK Helsinki (21:00)
Group D: Union St Gilloise vs Braga (18:45), Union Berlin vs Malmö (21:00)
Group E: Man United vs Omonoia (21:00), Real Sociedad vs Sheriff (21:00)
Group F: Feyenoord vs Midtjylland (18:45), Lazio vs Sturm Graz (21:00)
Group G: Nantes vs Freiburg (18:45), Qarabağ vs Olympiacos (18:45)
Group H: Trabzonspor vs Monaco (21:00), Ferencváros vs Crvena zvezda (21:00)
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 Champions League groups. The Europa League third-place sides switch to the UEFA Europa Conference League knockout round play-offs.
What to look out for
Cody Gakpo: the Erling Haaland of the Europa League?
Two goals in a 5-1 win at Zürich took PSV Eindhoven's Cody Gakpo to the top of the Europa League scorers' list for 2022/23, where he is level with Feyenoord's Santiago Giménez on three. Those two finishes took the 23-year-old's tally to 12 for PSV in all competitions this season (plus one in the Nations League for the Netherlands during the September internationals).
However, Gakpo's game is not all about goals. In the wake of the Zürich victory, it emerged that the PSV man has had a hand in 22 goals for his club this season (12 goals, 10 assists), as many as Erling Haaland for Manchester City (19 goals, 3 assists). As his side welcome the demoralised Swiss champions, can he continue to keep pace with the Norwegian?
Will Rashford lead the line for United?
Erik ten Hag's brief spell as Manchester United boss has been one of extreme ups and downs, with their 3-2 win at Omonoia on Matchday 3 a microcosm of their campaign. United unexpectedly went in at the break 1-0 down, before Marcus Rashford and fellow substitute Anthony Martial helped them to build up a 3-1 lead, only for visitors to concede again and ensure a nervy finish.
Rashford can certainly feel pleased with his two-goal salvo in his first game in Europe this season, but it remains to be seen whether he will be asked to start in the return fixture, where another win could put United within sight of the knockout phase. "From day one, I was so excited to work with him," Ten Hag said of the 24-year-old, who has been keeping Cristiano Ronaldo out of the starting line-up in Premier League games. "Now he’s bringing that potential to the pitch."
Perfect-points crew on course for knockouts
Five teams have made it to Matchday 4 with unblemished group stage records: Arsenal (who have only played two games), Spain's Real Betis and Real Sociedad, Bundesliga high-fliers Freiburg and UEFA competition first-timers Union St Gilloise. Under the current format, no side has failed to reach the knockout phase with a final points tally of more than ten, which augurs well for all those nine-point contenders.
The situation is anything but clear in Group F, though, where Feyenoord are top of a section in which all four rivals have four points after a win, a draw and a defeat in their opening fixtures. Last season's Europa Conference League runners-up, the Rotterdam outfit welcome Midtjylland on Matchday 4 with a reputation as the group stage's big entertainers so far: they are the ten-goal top scorers and their three matches have featured 16 strikes.
When are the remaining Europa League group stage games?
Matchday 5: 27 October 2022
Matchday 6: 3 November 2022
• The knockout phase of the competition has changed. As of last season, the Europa League group winners are guaranteed a place in the round of 16, while the runners-up must take their chances in the knockout round play-offs, where they are paired with one of the third-placed finishers from the Champions League.
• Under the new format, all is not lost for teams that finish third in their sections either; they progress to the Europa Conference League knockout round play-offs. Going into Matchday 4, those third-ranked clubs include José Mourinho's Roma, Lazio and Bundesliga surprise package Union Berlin.
Where is the 2023 UEFA Europa League final being played?
The 2022/23 Europa League season will conclude at Budapest's Puskás Aréna on 31 May 2023.
Officially opened in 2019, the 65,000+ capacity ground stands on the site of the old Hungarian national team stadium, which was also named in honour of former Honvéd and Real Madrid forward Ferenc Puskás. The venue is located in the Zugló district of the Hungarian capital.