UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE
Which Mexican players are playing in the 2023-24 UEFA Europa League and Europa Conference League?
Edson Álvarez swapped one Europa League team for another in the summer by moving from Ajax to Premier League side West Ham.
The UEFA Champions League takes centre stage on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Bayern Munich fight it out to be crowned the best team in Europe each season. However, Thursdays are all about the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League, with both tournaments throwing up fresh names and superb stories every year (until Sevilla inevitably end up winning the former, that is). In 2023-24, five Mexicans will be taking part; who should you be looking out for in the group stage?
Former América star Álvarez heads Mexican Europa League participation
West Ham United won the second edition of the Europa Conference League last season and were rewarded for their achievement with a place in the year’s Europa League. Former América and Ajax midfielder Edson Álvarez joined the Hammers in the summer and is expected to play a key role in their engine room, although he won’t be available for the first group match against Serbian club TSC. Also in Group A are Greek side Olympiacos and Freiburg of the German Bundesliga.
Veteran Andrés Guardado, who officially retired from international duty after winning a record 179 caps for El Tri, looks likely to be an impact player from the bench for LaLiga side Real Betis season, although he could see significant game time in Europe with manager Manuel Pellergini having to juggle his roster between various competitions. The Seville-based side are in Europa League Group C alongside 2022 finalists Rangers, Czech club Sparta Prague and Aris Limassol from Cyprus.
AEK Athens’ Mexican midfield
But the team Mexican fans should most be looking out for is AEK Athens, who had the chance to qualify for the Champions League but lost in the final playoff round to Antwerp of Belgium. The Greek champions have two Tri internationals on their books in the shape of Orbelín Pineda, who spent last season on loan in Athens before joining permanently in the summer, and Rodolfo Pizarro, the man who had to make way to allow Inter Miami to sign Lionel Messi. AEK have been drawn in a tough-looking Group B alongside former European champions Ajax and Marseille, as well as Premier League high-flyers Brighton.
Arteaga the sole Tri representative in the Europa Conference League
One Mexican player will also feature in the Europa Conference League, generally considered as a competition for clubs from lower-ranked European countries, with a few exceptions, especially once third-placed in the Europa League group stage drop down into the tournament in time for the knockout rounds. Former Santos Laguna left-back Gerardo Arteaga, capped 20 times for El Tri, will feature in the competition for Belgian club Genk, who will take on last season’s finalists Fiorentina, Ferencváros of Hungary and and Serbians FK Čukarički in Group F.