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Dec 7 / Jamie Hardesty

Sowing the seeds to success, Pardew style…

Looking at the final 32 teams left in the Europa League, you might be a bit disappointed to see Newcastle being in the ‘unseeded’ pot and having to face either a Champions League team or a side who won their Europa Group. Scary.

Though on closer inspection it would seem that actually, when comparing the two pots of ‘seeded’ and ‘unseeded’ teams, the ‘unseeded’ teams look far more difficult to face. Maybe Newcastle have dodged a bullet finishing as Group D runners up and now find themselves in a more favourable position than they would had they topped the group. It’s not supposed to work like that, is it?! Take a look at both pots and compare the teams:

Seeded:

Benfica, Bordeaux, CFR Cluj, Chelsea, Dnipro,  Fenerbahce, Genk, Hannover, Lazio, Lyon, Liverpool, Metalist Kharkiv, Olympiakos, Rubin Kazan, Steaua Bucuresti, Viktoria Plzen

Unseeded:

Ajax, Anzhi Makhachkala, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Monchengladbach, BATE Borisov, Bayer Leverkusen, Dynamo Kiev, FC Basel, Inter Milan, Levante, Napoli, Newcastle United, Sparta Prague, Stuttgart, Tottenham Hotspur, Zenit St Petersburg

Newcastle can’t be drawn against a fellow British side in the last 32, nor can they play a team from their group, meaning we won’t face Bordeaux, Chelsea or Liverpool in the next round. Judging by the remaining teams, namely the teams we could face, they don’t look too dangerous. Of course, Benefica, Fenerbahce, Lazio and Lyon all have established European pedigree but they don’t come across as overwhelmingly intimidating. Plus with the possibility of talking on the likes of Dnipro, Metalist, Steaua or Viktoria, it seems we shouldn’t have any fear in who we face.

Comparing those sides to some of the names in the ‘unseeded’ pot, I think we’ve actually gotten the better deal by finishing second in our group! Imagine having to face a Napoli or a Inter Milan or even a Falcao fuelled Atletico Madrid; then I’d have major doubts over our qualification prospects!

Facing Falcao? The unseeded pot, featuring Ateltico Madrid, seem to feature the better teams in the tournament

So for all those screaming at Pardew’s team selection last night maybe it’s time to think again. I wouldn’t say Alan Pardew has showed us mere mortals his omniscience in ensuring that, as group runners up, we could yet get a much more favourable draw than Bordeaux could, however maybe this policy of rotation and cup teams fused of fringe and youth players may have paid off big time.

The luck of the draw:

Thursday, December 20th at 2pm is when we will find out our final 32 opponent, with the first leg being played at St. James Park February 14th, with the away leg a week later on the 21st. The draw will also reveal who we could potentially face in the final 16, as both rounds are drawn at once.

The last 16 is when the competition really heats up and the Europa League resembles much more of a classic, FA Cup style knockout round where anybody can play anyone, abandoning seedings. Hopefully Newcastle can ensure that they’re a part of the last 16 which takes place in March as this competition could very well be the highlight of our season this year. Judging by the teams we could face in the last 32 there are some potential banana skins but the teams in the unseeded pot along with ourselves look far more intimidating!

Group D winners Bordueax could actually get a harder draw than runners up Newcastle

Where’d you want to go?

Personally I’d like to avoid Lazio or even Fenerbahce because there’s bound to be trouble for our away fans. Hopefully we can get Hannover or Viktoria Plzen, both would seem beatable and both would be a good away day to sample some foreign beers, continuing our European adventure.

For now though, the seeds have been sown, so let’s see what stems from the draw on the 20th and grow in this competition, leaving as winners in Amsterdam next May – now that would be a good trip!

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