Now that the squad have landed in Cyprus for their matchday 5 Europa League tie with APOEL Nicosia, it's time to have a look at the possible scenarios that may result from Maccabi's two final groupstage matches. Have your calculator ready!
Every year, as the autumn is coming to a close and the winter has yet to begin, the season of speculation descends upon us. The group stages of both the Champions League and the Europa League enter their critical phases and fans throughout the world take out their pocket calculators to see what might happen to their beloved clubs if, well, you fill in the rest. Maccabi Tel Aviv's Europa League group F is regarded as one of the more "open" groups, with all four group members, hypothetically at least, with a chance of advancing to the knock-out phase of the competition. The group's matchday 5 sees Maccabi playing away at Cypriot champions APOEL, with French side Bordeaux playing host to Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt. In the final round, played in two weeks' time, Bordeaux will come to Israel to face Maccabi at Bloomfield Stadium and APOEL will head to Germany for a final clash with Eintracht at Commerzbank Arena. So, how many points do Maccabi actually need to advance and is their fate in their own hands? Time to wade through the numbers and see what comes out.
The Europa League Group F table as it stands
|CLUB||GOALS FOR AND AGAINST||GOAL DIFFERENCE||POINTS|
|MACCABI TEL AVIV||6-5||1+||7|
The perfect scenario – victory in Nicosia
If Maccabi beat APOEL, they will guarantee their spot in the last 32 and the Bordeaux match here in Israel will only determine who comes out top of the group
The intriguing scenario – a draw in Nicosia
Only if Bordeaux win in Germany will they then be able to join Maccabi and APOEL in the battle with current group leaders Eintracht Frankfurt to qualify for the next stage. If they don't, a draw tomorrow night will see Maccabi maintain their three point advantage over APOEL into the last round, so that even if Maccabi lose in the last round to Bordeaux and APOEL beat Frankfurt, the two sides will finish level on points. According to UEFA rules, if two clubs finish on the same number of points, the leader is determined in the first instance based on encounters between the two clubs in question. Which side comes out on top then becomes a question of what kind of draw tomorrow night's encounter will produce. Since the two sides' draw here in Israel was goalless, a Maccabi goal in Nicosia will be enough to send them through on the away goals rule. But if this draw is goalless as well, life gets far more complicated. With the two teams locked on the same number of points (8) and identical results home and away (0-0), the battle moves to the arena of goal difference and, if that's level as well, to the total number of goals scored by either side. And (hold your breath) if the two clubs score the same number of goals too, UEFA rules say the team with a higher UEFA coefficient at the end of the group stage will be on the upper hand. And that, my friends, will see Maccabi draw the short straw. As things stand now, APOEL are ranked 55th, Maccabi 123rd. No groupstage result, however spectacular, could close a gap of that magnitude.
The complicated scenario – defeat in Nicosia
Losing to APOEL would leave Maccabi level on points (7) with their Cypriot adversaries going into the final round of this stage of the competition. But because of the goalless draw here in Israel, the Nicosians will leapfrog Maccabi in the table. If that happens, Maccabi will simply have to get more points in the last round than APOEL in order to finish ahead of them. If APOEL lose to Frankfurt, a Maccabi draw with Bordeaux will suffice. If APOEL and Frankfurt draw, Maccabi will have to defeat the Frenchmen to end in front.
Did we mention the possibility that Bordeaux will win tomorrow in Frankfurt? Ah, that's another story altogether, because then a Maccabi loss to Apoel would have all four sides in the group going into the last round so close on points to one another – Frankfurt (9), APOEL and Maccabi (7), Bordeaux (6) – that any combination of two groups could advance, though Maccabi and Bordeaux would still be ruled out of topping the group.
Tomorrow night close to midnight, when Maccabi and APOEL finish their match at GPS Stadium in Nicosia, we'll all be a lot wiser as to what scenarios await us in the sixth and final round in the group. Until then, feel free to be as optimistic or pessimistic as you like and send your thoughts on tomorrow's outcome to Maccabi Tel Aviv's official Facebook page. At this stage, there's nothing to lose.