How all nine British teams have progressed in Europe
Is the Premier League back to its best? Seven teams have qualified for knockout stages
Premier League leaders Liverpool are also the current Champions League holders. Photograph: PA
Rangers’ 1-1 draw with Young Boys on Thursday ensured that all nine British teams have qualified for the knockout phase of European competition. A sign of the renewed strength of the Premier League in recent years, and an improving SPL.
Here we take a look at how each of them did it . . .
How they progressed: Group E winners
Liverpool went into the final round of matches on Tuesday night not sure of progression but ended up as group winners thanks to a 2-0 victory over Salzburg in Austria. Their campaign got off to a bad start in September when they lost 2-0 away to Napoli, and they needed Mo Salah’s 69th minute winner against Salzburg after blowing a 3-0 lead in a dramatic 4-3 win at Anfield two weeks later. After Napoli frustrated Jurgen Klopp’s side in a 1-1 draw on Merseyside in late November they travelled to Salzburg on Tuesday knowing defeat could have condemned them to the Europa League, but two second half goals in as many minutes from Naby Keita and Salah ensured their progress.
How they progressed: Group C winners
City got their work in Europe done early, winning their opening three Group C fixtures and scoring 10 goals in the process, half of them in a 5-1 rout of Atalanta in Manchester on October 22. Back-to-back 1-1 draws away to the Italians and at home to Shakhtar Donetsk followed, with City five points clear going into the final round of fixtures, and their 4-1 win at Dinamo Zagreb put the icing on the cake.
How they progressed: Second in Group H
Frank Lampard’s side survived a nervy finale to their 2-1 win over Lille on Tuesday night to beat Ajax to second place in Group H by a single point. It was in keeping with an often dramatic campaign for the Londoners, who lost their opening game 1-0 at home to Valencia but, after winning in Lille, secured a vital 1-0 win over Ajax in Amsterdam which Lampard called a coming-of-age moment for his young side. A wild night followed at Stamford Bridge as they came from 4-1 down to draw 4-4 with Ajax — with Jorginho scoring twice from the penalty spot and the Dutch side playing the last 20 minutes with nine men — and it was a result which proved vital in a tight group.
How they progressed: Second in Group B
Tottenham endured a poor start to their campaign, held in a 2-2 draw away to Olympiacos before ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry bagged four goals in a stunning 7-2 home defeat to Bayern Munich in October. But though their domestic frustrations lingered on and ultimately cost Mauricio Pochettino his job, they turned things around in Europe thanks to two big victories over Red Star Belgrade — 5-0 at home and 4-0 on the road. A 4-2 win over Olympiacos in London ensured that, despite a second loss to Bayern in their final match, Spurs had secured their progression.
How they progressed: Group L winners
A thumping victory over AZ Alkmaar in their final match was a strong way to finish the group and also secured United top spot. An edgy opening day win at home to Astana was hardly the most convincing way to start and their goalless draw at Alkmaar left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side with work to do. But back-to-back wins over Partizan Belgrade put the Red Devils in control of the group, despite a young side falling to defeat in the freezing temperatures of Kazakhstan.
How they progressed: Group F winners
The Gunners made it through to the knockout phase thanks to a dominant start to the group, winning their first three matches against Eintracht Frankfurt, Standard Liege and Vitoria Guimaraes. But that form tailed off as Unai Emery began to feel the pressure both domestically and in Europe. Emery lost his job after a home loss to Frankfurt, with interim manager Freddie Ljungberg securing a 2-2 draw in the final match in Liege which guaranteed the Gunners topped the group.
How they progressed: Second in Group K
Nuno Espirito Santo had guided Wolves into their first European season since 1980-81 after a superb Premier League campaign following promotion. A gruelling qualification which involved six matches just to reach the group phase left some fearing for Nuno’s side, but they swept into the last 32 with ease. Portuguese side Braga topped the group after winning at Molineux and claiming a 3-3 draw at home, but Wolves won home and away against Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava to ease through as runners up.
How they progressed: Group E winners
The Hoops’ failure to qualify for the Champions League after an astonishing 4-3 defeat in the second leg against CFR Cluj at Celtic Park — including a 90th-minute winner — was a huge disappointment for Neil Lennon’s side. To be paired with the Romanian side again when the Europa League group stage was drawn felt like another kick in the teeth. But Celtic bounced back in style and topped a tough group — which included Serie A giants Lazio and Ligue 1 side Rennes — to cap a superb achievement. A 2-1 win in Rome was the undoubted highlight with their only defeat coming to Cluj once top spot was already secured.
How they progressed: Second in Group G
Rangers’ battle to reach the Europa League group stage began on July 9th with a clash against St Joseph’s of Gibraltar. Three more two-legged ties followed before Steven Gerrard’s side had qualified. They were then handed a tough draw after being paired with Porto, Feyenoord and Young Boys. The quality of the group was reflected in the fact that Rangers were able to progress, as runners up, despite only picking up nine points. Draws in their last two matches edged Gers through, but earlier Ibrox wins over Feyenoord and Porto paved the way to the knockout phase.