Aberdeen meet Swedish champions BK Hacken at Pittodrie tonight for a place in the Europa League groups – and fans, with fingers crossed, will have already started looking at the pots for the group stage draw and working out their dream line-up.
Barry Robson’s Reds secured a 2-2 draw in Gothenburg last Thursday in their play-off first leg against Allsvenskan kings Hacken, putting themselves in pole position to progress ahead of the Granite City return leg.
Going into tonight’s sold-out spectacular at Pittodrie, the Dons and Red Army know, whatever happens, they are guaranteed financially-lucrative group stage action until Christmas in either the Europa League or Europa Conference League.
If they capitalise on home advantage to beat Hacken this evening, it will be the Europa League groups, which are already confirmed to be stacked with some of the world’s biggest clubs.
But should tonight end in disappointment against the Swedes, there will still be the opportunity to land a tasty (albeit, slightly less glamorous) group in the Conference League.
Which sides could be in Aberdeen’s Europa League group?
The excellent @UefaRankings on X (formerly Twitter) has been keeping fans of clubs involved in European action up to date all through the qualifying rounds for the various Continental competitions – specifically, with who they could be drawn against.
Last night, the account produced the below handy graphic showing the lie of the land in terms of which sides are confirmed for the Europa League group stage (and which pots they occupy for the draw).
Only 10 clubs are still to be confirmed via tonight’s 10 play-off second leg games.
Robson’s Aberdeen are among the 10 unconfirmed sides predicted to progress from their ties this evening:
Three more teams confirmed Europa League group stage:
🏴 Rangers (Pot 2)
🇬🇷 AEK Athens (Pot 4)
🇵🇱 Raków Częstochowa (Pot 4)
As of tonight:
– Marseille secured Pot 2
– Freiburg secured Pot 3
– Maccabi Haifa secured Pot 3
Remaining 10 teams will be confirmed tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/vdM9MdsgYk
— UEFA Rankings (@UefaRankings) August 30, 2023
As you will see above, should the Dons claim victory in their tie against Hacken, their Uefa ranking points mean they will be in pot four for the group stage draw – which takes place at the Grimaldi Forum, Monaco, at noon (GMT) on Friday.
In the draw, they would be paired with a side from each of pot one, pot two and pot four to form a group.
As well as the chance to see their team line-up against big-name clubs on the pitch, potential trips to some of the globe’s most iconic (or most raucous) cities will likely be in the forefront of supporters’ minds should Aberdeen make it into the Europa League groups draw.
Potential mouth-watering group line-ups include…
Liverpool/Sporting CP (Lisbon)/Maccabi Haifa/Aberdeen
Roma/Real Betis/Brighton and Hove Albion/Aberdeen
Fan of a night out? The Dons’ Europa League group could be…
Ajax (Amsterdam)/Slavia Prague/Slovan Bratislava/Aberdeen
They would play each group-mate home and away, with the games scheduled to take place over six Thursday nights: September 21, October 5, October 26, November 9, November 30 and December 14.
Who could Dons face in Conference League groups?
While most of the Europa League group stage participants have already been confirmed by a) automatic qualification and b) the Champions League qualifiers which concluded on Wednesday night, all of the clubs involved in the Europa Conference League groups will be confirmed this evening.
Of the 32 sides, 10 will be the losers from the 10 Europa League play-off ties which conclude tonight – so Aberdeen or Hacken will be among them.
Meanwhile, the other 22 will come through the Conference League’s own play-off round ties which also conclude on Thursday.
Handily, @UefaRankings have also compiled a graphic showing who the 32 teams for the Conference League group stage are likely to be (and, again, what pots they would be in) ahead of the draw, which is schedule for 1.30pm (GMT) on Friday in Monaco after the Europa League groups draw.
We are now less than 48 hours away from Europa League and Europa Conference League group stage draws that will be made on Friday, 1 September.
UEL – 13:00 CET
UECL – 14:30 CET
It's most likely that complete fixtures for both competitions will be announced on Saturday morning. pic.twitter.com/pOLIrvOx8L
— UEFA Rankings (@UefaRankings) August 30, 2023
Despite being on the cusp of the group stage of Uefa’s second-tier Europa League, should Aberdeen drop into the third-tier competition, they again look set to be in pot four for the draw due to their relatively-low Uefa ranking points.
Potential Conference League group line-ups they could face include…
Eintracht Frankfurt/Aston Villa/Besiktas/Aberdeen
Note: The group games schedule is the same as for the Europa League above.
How financial rewards change between the Europa League and Conference League
Without spending too much time on these details, the financial rewards for Conference League group stage qualification, and wins/draws therein, are slightly lower than for the Europa League – although they remain significant for a Premiership club with Aberdeen’s turnover.
There has been discussion among some fans about whether it might be more lucrative to drop into the Conference League, with what they view as a better chance of picking up points from group games than there would be in the Europa League.
Whether the Dons have a better chance of taking a point off Besiktas than Roma, or are more likely to beat Aston Villa than Liverpool is debatable, but here are the cash rewards for both competitions:
Europa League groups: Qualification – £3.15 million. Group stage win – £550,000. Draw – £180,000.
Conference League groups: Qualification – £2.55 million. Group stage win – £430,000. Draw – £140,000.
Coefficient ranking and broadcast payments are the same for both competitions.