What’s at stake for the British clubs as European group stages come to an end?

By Sports Desk December 11, 2023

The final round of fixtures in the group stages of this season’s European competitions take place this week.

Here, the PA news agency looks at what is at stake for the British clubs involved.

Champions League

It is crunch time for Manchester United and Newcastle in their bids to reach the knockout stages.

Erik ten Hag’s inconsistent side must beat Harry Kane’s Bayern Munich at Old Trafford on Tuesday and hope the clash between Copenhagen and Galatasaray ends in a draw to leapfrog both and progress from Group A.

Defeat would end United’s European campaign without even the consolation of a Europa League place.

Newcastle, third in Group F, need to beat AC Milan at St James’ Park on Wednesday to have any hope of going through but that will not be enough if second-placed Paris St Germain overcome Borussia Dortmund.

Having already qualified as winners of their groups, the pressure is off for Arsenal and Manchester City as they travel to PSV Eindhoven and Red Star Belgrade respectively.

Winless Celtic are condemned to last place in Group E and sign off by hosting a Feyenoord side certain to finish third.

Europa League

Rangers travel to Group C leaders Real Betis with qualification on the line.

Victory would seal it for Philippe Clement’s side but anything less would open the door for Sparta Prague, who face bottom side Aris Limassol.

West Ham and Brighton are already through but top spots in their respective Groups A and B – which mean avoiding a play-off tie against a team dropping out of the Champions League – are still to be determined.

The Hammers’ clash with Freiburg and Brighton’s meeting with Marseille, both at home, are effectively shootouts for first place.

Liverpool are already guaranteed top place in Group E regardless of their result at Belgian league leaders Union Saint-Gilloise.

Europa Conference League

Aston Villa have already secured their place in the knockout stages and will win Group E if they avoid defeat at Bosnian side Zrinjski Mostar.

Aberdeen, who are out of contention, end their campaign at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

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  • Ten Hag unsure whether or not FA Cup final was last Man Utd game Ten Hag unsure whether or not FA Cup final was last Man Utd game

    Erik ten Hag admits he does not know whether or not he has managed Manchester United for the last time, after guiding the Red Devils to FA Cup glory.

    The Dutchman led his team out against Manchester City in a repeat of last year's final with his job reportedly on the line, regardless of the result ahead of the final at Wembley.

    Nevertheless, the Red Devils produced a spirited performance with first-half goals from Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo eventually enough to secure a 2-1 win over their rivals.

    It provided a happy ending to a difficult season for United, in which they recorded their lowest Premier League finish of eighth, but still managed to snatch European football for next term.

    However, speculation and question marks continue to hang over the future of Ten Hag, who waved to United supporters during the team's lap of honour after collecting his second trophy in as many years at Old Trafford.

    But the former Ajax head coach remains tight-lipped on what will happen next.

    When asked if that was his last game in charge, he told BBC Sport. "I don't know. The only thing I can do is prepare my team, progress and develop my team and individual players.

    "This is a project. When I came in, it was a mess. We are better, but we are by far not where we want to be.

    "Football is about winning trophies. I want to play the best football. I want to play dynamic football, attacking football, but in the end, you have to win games and trophies. That is the mentality that we brought in.

    "We only had one opportunity this season – that was the FA Cup. We did it. I'm so very proud of the players and staff, who did an incredible job."

    Ten Hag could well suffer the same fate as compatriot Louis van Gaal, who was dismissed by the club after guiding them to FA Cup glory in 2016.

    The 54-year-old stated his belief that he and the team had been unfairly treated by the media over the course of the campaign, during which he felt injuries to key players severely hampered his side's progress.

    "I think so. The team, me as well – it was not right," he added. "We didn't have the players. It was not always good football, but we have had to make compromises all the time, then you can't play the football you want to play.

    "I have been here two years, and we maybe had three, four times, the full squad [available]. Today, we had some massive players like Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Casemiro not on board.

    "All the compliments to the team. They have played very well, to our identity. You can see when we have the players on board, how we can play to our philosophy. Some of them are not even fit, or match fit.
     
    "I have said the whole year. When the players are fit, we can play good football and have a good performance against the best team in the world.
     
    "Always, when you have a local rivalry, it's much more important when you play against the other team from the city. But for us, it was not about this, it was more to prove a point after such a tough year.

    "With so many setbacks, the team showed so much resilience, and I'm very proud of them."

  • 'Who knows what will happen?' - Celtic loanee Idah unsure of future after Scottish Cup matchwinner 'Who knows what will happen?' - Celtic loanee Idah unsure of future after Scottish Cup matchwinner

    Adam Idah revelled in his last-gasp winner for Celtic in their Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers, but admits he is uncertain of his future.

    The Norwich City loanee, who arrived from Carrow Road in February on a deal until the end of the season, was the hero at Hampden Park as the Scottish Premiership champions completed the double in dramatic fashion.

    Substitute Idah reacted quickest in the 90th minute, with the final goalless and seemingly heading for extra-time, pouncing on the loose ball to slot away the rebound after Jack Butland could only parry Paulo Bernardo's fierce strike.

    And the Republic of Ireland international revealed his joy at delivering the goods for Brendan Rodgers' side at such a crucial moment.

    "I came here to try and score as many goals as I can," he told BBC Scotland. "I didn't think I’d score a goal like this, in front of all these fans – it's an amazing feeling.

    "It's hard to put it into words. Everyone can see what it means to the players, the fans. Especially from a boy, being Irish, always supporting Celtic, it's amazing.

    "Football's a tricky situation. I do love it here. It's a great club. I'm still contracted with Norwich City, who knows what will happen?"

    Meanwhile, skipper Callum McGregor saluted the character demonstrated by his team-mates in securing the double against their bitter rivals.

    "The mentality in this group, inside this building, inside this club, the fanbase – we just want to win trophies," he said.

    "We know it's never going to be perfect, you're never going to turn up in all the cup finals. Rangers are a good team, they made it a good old-fashioned derby game, big tackles in there.

    "But this group – they find the moment of quality, they stick together and they come out winners.

    "Honestly, I’m delighted. If we turned up today and didn't win, everyone forgets about the league, we understand the pressure we're under."

  • FA Cup final defeat will not serve as extra motivation for Man City, says Guardiola FA Cup final defeat will not serve as extra motivation for Man City, says Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola will not need to take extra motivation from Manchester City's FA Cup final loss to Manchester United.

    City's hopes of retaining their FA Cup crown, and securing a double for the 2023-24 season, were dashed at Wembley on Saturday, as United ran out 2-1 winners.

    Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo scored the goals as United stunned their neighbours, who had finished 31 points clear of the Red Devils in the Premier League.

    Jeremy Doku pulled one back late on but City became the first holders of the FA Cup to finish as runners-up in the following campaign since United in 2004-05, but Guardiola refuted the suggestion that his rivals' triumph would serve as additional motivation for his squad ahead of next season.

    Guardiola told BBC Sport: "We don't play to beat United, we play for ourselves."

    City dominated possession against United, having 73.5 per cent of the ball, but Erik ten Hag's team had more shots on target (five to four) and accumulated a higher expected goals figure (1.5 to 1.3).

    When asked if he thought United were the better side, though, Guardiola said: "No.

    "The second half we were there. United are always a transition team, they have been for 10, 20, 30 years.

    "[In the ] first half we struggled a bit but second half we were better. In general it was a good performance for a final."

    Asked what he said to his players at full-time, Guardiola replied: "I congratulated all of them on another fantastic season.

    "It went wrong. We lost the game – congratulations to United. It was a tight game, we conceded, but in the second half we changed our pace up front, we made a good effort.

    "It can happen. Many things can happen – they scored two goals and we could not score more."

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