Matchday 6 in the Europa League was relatively anticlimactic due to the high number of sides who had already qualified to the knockout round from the 12 groups.
In Group A, Swansea City joined Valencia as group survivors despite the Swans' 1-0 loss to St. Gallen. Chornomorets Odesa secured their spot from Group B (along with Ludogorets Razgrad) with a 1-0 win over PSV Eindhoven.
Group G's knockout round representatives were finalized with Dynamo Kiev's 3-1 victory at home to Rapid Vienna. Dynamo Kiev joined Genk in moving on to the elimination tournament.
Sevilla and Slovan Liberec claimed road wins over SC Freiburg and Estoril, respectively, and finished first and second in Group H thereby.
The goalless draw Real Betis secured at home to Rijeka was plenty thrilling to the faithful at Estadio Benito Villamarin; the point put Real Betis through with Lyon from Group I.
The top-two sides from Groups C, E, F, J, K and L were all set after Matchday 5. Still, there were some notable developments from those groups.
FC Red Bull Salzburg (Group C) and Tottenham Hotspur (Group K) were the only two sides to win all six of their respective matches in the group stage. The dominance of Spurs no doubt contributed to Anzhi Makhachkala moving on despite a negative goal difference and only eight points from six matches.
Further, the rampant runs from Salzburg and Spurs did nothing to abate the miseries of Standard Liege (Group C) and Tromso (Group K), who tied with Group B's Dinamo Zagreb for the fewest points won in the group stage—one apiece.
Perhaps the biggest loser on the day was the Europa League, at least in the English press.
Craig Hope of the Daily Mail wrote a lengthy article with a good deal of statistical and historical analysis stating his case that the "Europa League derails domestic campaigns and it will probably be won by a Champions League club anyway."
Hope's argument is certainly buttressed by the fact that three of the last four Europa League finals were won by either Chelsea or Atletico Madrid.
The suggestions Hope offers to "fix" the Europa League—dropping the group stage outright, easing the schedule so sides need not play on Thursday night and then again on Sunday afternoon, etc.—are worthwhile but probably not very likely to be enacted any time soon.
After all, the clubs that qualify for Europa League play have leave to express their competitive zeal for the tournament any way they wish. Even if it means that they do not try all that hard to win it.
Every side that advanced has a puncher's chance to win it, but it is very hard to argue with the prospects of Tottenham Hotspur and FC Red Bull Salzburg on current form.
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