European football is back, and this year all Swiss eyes will be on the Europa League. With no Swiss teams in the Champions League for the first time since 2015/16, three clubs will represent Switzerland in the Europa League, the first time this has happened.
Last season’s top three from the Swiss Super League will be flying the Swiss flag this year: the champions BSC Young Boys, runners-up FC Basel and surprise package FC Lugano. It’s set to be an exciting campaign ahead, as Switzerland’s best begin their European journeys.
So following the draw for the Europa League group stage, here’s my take on their groups and their chances against some of Europe’s strongest teams.
BSC YOUNG BOYS – GROUP G
Porto | Feyenoord | Rangers
After losing their Champions League play-off against Red Star Belgrade, BSC Young Boys dropped down into the Europa League. On paper their group does look difficult, but YB are actually the only current domestic champions in Group G.
Portuguese giants Porto will be the toughest test for the Bernese boys, and it will be interesting to see how Gerardo Seoane’s side cope with the strength, experience and pedigree of the 28-time Portuguese champions. Getting any result over them would be a success, but it won’t be easy against the Dragões.
YB should get results over Feyenoord and Rangers, who are evenly balanced to them. Having star striker Guillaume Hoarau back to full fitness as soon as possible will be crucial, but a vulnerable, weakened defence could prove costly for the champions.
Young Boys haven’t reached the knockout stages in Europe in their last 4 campaigns, but that should change this year. They’ll need to be at the top of their game in a competitive group, but I fancy the Bernese club to qualify for the round of 32.
FC BASEL – GROUP C
Krasnodar | Getafe | Trabzonspor
FC Basel also dropped down from the Champions League qualifiers, after LASK knocked them out in the third qualifying round. The RotBlau are by far the most experienced of the three Swiss qualifiers, and will feel confident about qualifying from Group C.
Basel’s European pedigree will be pivotal this season, and with a strong start to the season they look ready to play in Europe again after missing out last year. The 3,000-mile trip to Krasnodar will be challenging, with the Russians having made it to the knockout stages in 3 of the last 4 seasons.
Games against Getafe and Trabzonspor won’t be easy for FCB, but they are both certainly winnable. Getafe haven’t played European football since 2010, while Trabzonspor haven’t reached the round of 32 for four years.
I think Basel will win a competitive Group C, and go the furthest out of the Swiss teams. Their experience and proven track record in Europe will be vital, and a strong start to the season shows that the RotBlau can definitely have an excellent campaign in the Europa League.
FC LUGANO – GROUP B
Dynamo Kyiv | Copenhagen | Malmö
It still baffles me how FC Lugano qualified for the Europa League group stage. A third place league finish last season answers that question, but after winning just 28% of their games and finishing with a measly goal difference of +1, there are doubts over how they’ll cope in Europe.
Malmö and Dynamo Kyiv both reached the knockout stages last season, before both being beaten by Chelsea in the round of 32 and round of 16 respectively. Danish champions Copenhagen also regained their Europa League place, though finished bottom of their group last season.
Lugano are up against very strong and experienced opposition, and currently sitting 8th in the Swiss Super League proves their lacklustre form. They could get a result against Copenhagen, but picking up points against Dynamo and Malmö seems beyond their ability.
I unfortunately don’t have much belief in Lugano, and while I’m hoping for the best I can’t see them qualifying. They simply aren’t good enough to be playing in Europe, and I think they’ll have a woeful campaign and bow out before Christmas.
To have three very different Swiss sides in Europe will be interesting, with a mix of domestic dominance, European experience and a lack of real quality. Swiss football would hugely benefit from successful campaigns from their teams, with the country’s coefficient ranking having recently staggered.
It’s hard to really say how Young Boys, Basel and Lugano will do, but I really hope that they all do brilliantly. The first step is qualifying for the knockout stages, and who knows- maybe the coveted Europa League trophy could return to Switzerland for the very first time.