Champions League rejects: How will dropouts fare on Thursday nights?
History says sides that fall into the Europa League and then reach the latter stages have little else to play for...
How the eight sides dumped out of the Champions League and into the Europa League fare upon the resumption of the continent’s secondary competition makes for an interesting subplot.
Early exits for the sides that have scuttled in the back door are not just heard of, but common.
Since the competition was renamed in 2009, 22 of the 56 teams that dropped down were knocked out in the round of 32, while a further 15 made it just one step further.
That is perhaps surprising considering that those teams, in theory, should be superior.
A reasonable retort, of course, would be that this is down to motivation.
The season’s ambitions lay in the Champions League, not in playing second fiddle on Thursday nights.
That while Europe’s premier competition was prioritised alongside a league campaign, the Europa League is less so.
Interestingly, though, of the 19 to have made the competition’s final eight, 11 have progressed to the semi-finals.
That suggests that clubs’ priorities switch if they burgle themselves a quarter-final place.
And history does tell us that those sides involved in the latter stages of the Europa League tend not to be involved in much excitement elsewhere.
The three sides to have dropped from the Champions League mid-season and gone on to win the Europa League since 2009 were not in domestic title contention whatsoever.
Atletico Madrid finished ninth in La Liga in 2010, Chelsea finished 14 points off top in the 2013 Premier League and Sevilla finished seventh in Spain last season.
Indeed, the vast majority of semi-finalists and finalists from the same group of teams have not been involved in tight finishes domestically, whether attempting to qualify for Europe or win the title.
Benfica in the 2012/13 season are the only one of these select sides to be involved in a genuinely close title race and reach the Europa League final in this time period.
Other teams involved in a tight domestic finishes – Basel in 2010/11, Ajax and Porto in 2011/12, BATE Borisov in 2012/13 and Porto in 2014/15 to name a few – have been among the early exits.
So of this season’s set of Champions League drop-outs, only those with limited domestic opportunities are worth considering to go all the way.
The one new English entrant, Tottenham, are likely to struggle given the intensity of the race at the top of the Premier League, and are probably not worth backing at .
Besiktas, too – just two points clear at the top of the Super Lig – should probably be ignored at .
Borussia Monchengladbach, however, are the definition of mid-table in the Bundesliga, and are worth considering at .
And looks excellent value for Lyon, who sit fourth in Ligue 1 but are 18 points off top.
Similar criteria could, to some extent, be applied to all of the other teams, too.
History does suggest, though, that teams involved from the start of the tournament have less trouble going the distance, regardless of their domestic situation.
Of the four non-Champions League entrant winners since 2009, Porto won the Primeira Liga title in 2011, while Atletico Madrid and Sevilla (twice) were involved in competition for the top four until the end of their seasons.
So the fact that Manchester United ( ), Roma ( ) and Zenit St Petersburg ( ) are unlikely to be able to ease off in their respective leagues should not necessarily deter you.
Athletic Bilbao ( ), Fiorentina ( ) and Olympiacos ( ), meanwhile, are unlikely to face a strenuous domestic run-in and will prioritise this tournament.
How do you see the Champions League dropouts faring in the Europa League? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments section below.