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What Do Dundalk Need To Happen To Progress Through The Qualifying Group?

Conor Neville
By Conor Neville
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We're now entering the nervy final stages of the Europa League group phase.

Even the most hardened anti-LOI sceptics have now been convinced that Dundalk belong in this company. While they failed to take a point off group toppers Zenit St. Petersberg, the past two games have only deepened the belief that Dundalk are far from out of place.

With two games remaining, it's time to examine in depth Dundalk's chances of progression to the next round. Thus far, there's been a sense that people have spent all their time marvelling at their performances and how well they've done rather than looking ahead and assessing the likelihood of qualification.

What is the state of Group D?

Well, the important thing to remember is that Dundalk still lie in 2nd spot by virtue of the fact that the head-to-head record trumps either goal difference or goal scored.

Both Dundalk and Maccabi Tel Aviv have four points after four games. Both have a goal difference of -1. Maccabi have an advantage in terms of goal scored. They lost 4-3 at home to Zenit in the opening game.

However, Dundalk's 1-0 victory in Tallaght leaves them a nose ahead of Tel Aviv.


Naturally, breezy confidence is the best way forward here. If Dundalk win the next two matches, they'll go through in second place and that's that. It's in their hands.

Not only but four points from the remaining two games effectively gaurantees them a spot in the next round.


But we might as well dig into some other permutations.

Winning against Alkmaar

Dundalk's surest route to the knockout round would see them beat AZ Alkmaar in Tallaght in three weeks time. Unlike the Irish champions, Alkmaar were spanked in Russia, losing 5-0 in the second round of games. Since then, they've lost at home to Maccabi and drawn 0-0 away.

Based on the results in this competition, Dundalk should arguably enter the game as favourites. Though, obviosuly, it still feels a bit of stretch to label Dundalk favourites in any game at this level, regardless of form. The difference in terms of European co-efficient and financial muscle should still be intimidating.


Ultimately, regardless of what Maccabi Tel Aviv do against Zenit, Dundalk know that a win and a draw, in either order, will guarantee them a spot in the knockout round.


If Dundalk were to win in Tallaght on 24 November and Maccabi Tel Aviv lost in Peterberg, then Dundalk would sit three points ahead of the Israelis heading into the final game. A draw and a win would obviously then be a sufficient in Israel (as it would be regardless of what happened in Zenit-Maccabi).

Assuming they've beaten Alkmaar, even a loss to Maccabi wouldn't be fatal depending on the circumstances.


If Dundalk only won by one goal against Alkmaar and Maccabi only lost by one goal against Zenit, then a 1-0 win for the Israelis in the final match would be sufficient to carry them through on goals scored.

But it would be most congenial if the Russians were to give Tel Aviv the runaround on their own home patch. In those circumstances, a 1-0 win for Maccabi wouldn't be enough to dislodge Dundalk from second place as the Irish champions would win out on goal difference.

Drawing with Alkmaar

A draw would leave them needing some sort of result in Israel.

Two draws would be satisfactory for Dundalk provided Maccabi Tel Aviv failed to win in Zenit. In that case both finish on the same number of points with Dundalk maintaining their head to head advantage over the Russians. The only complication here would be if Alkmaar sprung a surprise at home to Zenit (who may have the feet up).

So, if we get three draws and an Alkmaar win over Zenit from the four remaining matches, we end up with three teams on six points.


In that case, the matter is settled in a triangular tournament style head to head between the three competing clubs. In this breakdown, Dundalk and Maccabi Tel Aviv would finish on six points while Alkmaar would finish on three - as three of their points would be collected against the Russians.

Aalkmaar are thus eliminated and we would return to just looking at the head to head results of Dundalk-Maccabi. Which would see Dundalk through.

Losing to Alkmaar 

If Dundalk lost to Alkmaar. drew with Tel Aviv and Zenit maintain their 100% record, then the group has the potential to get very complex. All three sides involved in the scrap for 2nd spot would finish on 5 points.

Even in the triangular head to head, they'd still find themselves on five. It woul then fall to us to consider goal difference of which there are too many possibilities to go into here. Dundalk would have some ground to make up with Maccabi as they have a slightly poorer goal scored record.

One thing that Dundalk could do without is Zenit 'doing an Italy' on it and deciding that seeing as they're already through they may as well put the feet up. Given that the Russian side are already assured first place, this is definite concern.

A loss to Alkmaar and a win against the Israelis would likely be enough provided Zenit didn't rest on their stool and send out a half-hearted team to Holland.


There's once more big, game-changing money at stake here. If Dundalk reach the knockout phase, they will receive a €5.5 million bonus.

Read more: Watch: Daryl Horgan Outpaces Zenit Defense To Pull Dundalk Level

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