Skip to main content

PSG, Benfica, and Sturm Graz the luckiest teams to reach the European tournaments knock-out phase. Milan, Salzburg and Rakow – unluckiest

The group stage of all three European club tournaments concluded on Thursday when the last games in the Europa League and Europa Conference League took place. Expected or not, the last matches did not produce many dramatic moments. As we all know, the first two teams in each group went on to progress to the direct eliminations, while the 3rd positioned team in the Champions League and Europa League were demoted to the less prestigious tournament. Knowing all that and having the final standings, we checked how many of the 24 groups in all three competitions had the 2nd and the 3rd positioned teams finish on equal points.

The results show that only the ‘Group of death,’ or Group F in the Champions League, saw PSG and Milan collecting the same amount of 8 points throughout their six games. In such a scenario when the points are tied, the outcomes of the head-to-head matches serve as a tie-breaker. However, Parisians won 3:0 at home and lost 2:1 away in Italy. In our case, it was the French team that went on to qualify for the knock-out phase, while Milan will enter the Europa League draw because of their worse goal difference in the H2H clashes.

What we find really surprising is that the aforementioned was the only such case in this season’s European club tournaments’ group stages. As we already noted, the teams in 3rd position in the Champions League and Europa League groups get demoted to Europa League and Europa Conference League’s play-off round respectively. We also checked what was the points situation with teams who finished in 3rd and 4th positions.

In the Champions League, only Salzburg and Benfica in Group D had tied points, with the Portuguese team joining Europa League and the Austrians waving goodbye to the continental games. In Europa League, it was the same. It was again Group D that saw teams placed 3rd and 4th having the same amount of points. This time luck was on the Austrians’ side, as Sturm Graz ended in 3rd spot and the Czech side Rakow was eliminated.