Continued positive trend of Italian teams in Europe


Full loot for Italian clubs participating in the knockout phase of the three European competitions – Champions League, Europa League, and Conference League – where the tune will inevitably change. Meanwhile, the trend of Italian football seems to have changed (hopefully for good) for some years now.

The positive streak of Italian teams engaged in European competitions continues. Besides performing well and receiving economic rewards in proportion to the tournament, they indirectly contribute to the UEFA nation ranking, determining the number of qualified teams per Federation. This ranking serves as an indicator of the health of clubs beyond their national borders.

Contrary to economic investments, television revenues, purchasing power, and signing the best players in circulation, European numbers indicate that Serie A is thriving.

Last year, as we all remember, three Italian teams reached their respective finals: Inter in the Champions League, Roma in the Europa League (having won the Conference the year before), and Fiorentina in the Conference League, although unfortunately without achieving their ultimate goal. However, these results greatly aided the nation’s ranking, currently guaranteeing seven Italian teams in Europe, all now qualified for the knockout phase, where the details will make the difference. Being present is important.

Italian football is soaring while the Premier League, seen as unreachable, has already lost Manchester United and Newcastle, despite heavy investments. The Bundesliga will have to manage without Union Berlin, and even the Spanish La Liga lost Osasuna, eliminated in the summer after the Conference playoffs (demonstrating it’s not just a minor cup). Sevilla, who won the Europa League against Roma last year and has an unmatched tradition in the second continental cup, finished last in their Champions League group, ending their European season prematurely.

On paper, Italy’s UEFA nation ranking can only improve. However, the game will now get tougher, the difficulty will increase, but as always, it’s in the latter part of the season that clubs’ best form emerges, injuries permitting. This also sets the stage for the upcoming European Championship.

Thoughts, but especially crucial numbers, as the top two Federations will have an additional spot in the new 2024-25 Champions League, which will no longer have group stages but a massive 36-team group, details of which we’ll discuss later.

It’s now necessary to comment on the draw for the round of 16.

The qualification of the three Italian teams occurred through their second-place finishes in the groups. It previewed a tough draw for everyone, except Milan, “relegated” to the Europa League. Lazio faces a tough match against Bayer Monaco, a German team with an enormous European tradition, winners of the cup in the 2019-20 season but never reaching beyond the quarter-finals in recent years. It’s an objectively difficult clash requiring a sporting miracle. The Biancocelesti had a shaky start to the season but, thanks to a celestial alignment,

deservedly made it among Europe’s top sixteen. This double confrontation will also serve as a gauge of their level against a powerhouse. Inter and Napoli, on the other hand, will face Spain. A challenging draw but paradoxically could have been worse. Starting with the Nerazzurri, who will challenge Atletico Madrid. They are always a physical, tough, and resilient team, especially in home games driven by incessant support. However, this Inter has all the numbers to progress, boasting a deep squad and some players arguably at their peak. We are certain that even the Spanish team would have preferred to draw a different second-placed team. Napoli will face Barcelona, not the same team that, a few years ago, caused absolute turmoil for opponents. There’s been a generational shift, and Gavi will also miss due to injury, likely sidelining him from the European Championship and the Olympics. The Napoli seen against Real Madrid lacked a killer instinct, similar to Inter, facing a difficult opponent on paper but not impossible. It could have been worse if the draw had given them Manchester City or even Real.

The first-leg matches will be played on February 13-14 and 20-21, with the return legs on March 5-6 and 12-13.

The draw determined pairings for the playoffs between second-placed Europa League group teams and third-placed Champions League group teams, acting as a kind of round of 16. There was anticipation for Roma (second in their group) and Milan, as mentioned, relegated from the Champions League. The Giallorossi drew Feyenoord, a team they’ve faced several times in recent seasons (including the Conference final in Tirana), and on paper, it’s not a straightforward playoff. However, with great respect for the Dutch side, there are enough conditions for Roma to progress.

Milan will face Rennes, a French team with considerable attacking talent but not invincible against the Rossoneri. With greater pragmatism, Milan would still be comfortably in the Champions League.

Atalanta, having won their group, will rest, awaiting the outcome of the playoffs scheduled for February 15 and 22, the draw for the round of 16 on February 23, and will take to the field directly on March 7 and 14.

Fiorentina, topping their group, can plan for the upcoming weeks, starting with the transfer market, as Nico Gonzales’ injury is bad news. His recovery timeline suggests a return to the field only in February, in time for the crucial phase of the season.

For the Conference League, the draw determined the playoffs for access to the round of 16, where the second-placed teams from the Conference group face the third-placed teams from the Europa League.

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Gianluca Puzzo

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Gianluca Puzzo

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