Europa League Group Stage draw – talking points

It’s hard to believe it was over a month ago that we saw prolific Europa League winners Sevilla land a record sixth title, in what proved to be a five-goal thriller against Inter Milan in Cologne – albeit, behind closed doors. Now that the qualifying teams have earned their places for this season’s tournament and the draw for the group stage has been made, attentions turn to the fate of those clubs. For some, it could be a long and arduous campaign, but one thing’s for certain, there’s bound to be a shock or two along the way. While punters gear up to check the latest odds on sites like Betdaq, as they wager on their favourites for the season, what are the key talking points from the draw?

Say hello to the debutants

There are three clubs embarking on their maiden Europa League adventure this season: Granada, Omonia and Sivasspor. Spanish club Granada qualified after beating Malmö in the play-off, and were drawn in Group F, alongside PSV Eindhoven, PAOK and Omonia.

The Cypriot side too, are making their debut in the group stages of the competition – having never qualified before. Omonia had originally qualified for the Champions League, but after losing to Olympiakos in the play-off, were awarded a place in the group stages of the Europa League.

Turkish side Sivasspor qualified for the Europa League group stages after finishing fourth in the Süper Lig – and have been placed in Group I with Villarreal, Qarabag and Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Easy draws for the English clubs

Arsenal were the first Premier League side drawn, and were placed in Group B. Their opponents in the group stages will be Rapid Wien, Molde and Irish club Dundalk. Mikel Arteta’s side easily qualified for the knockout stages last campaign, and will be hoping for a better performance this time around – having been knocked out at the Round of 32, at the hands of Olympiakos.

After securing their place in the group stage draw with a 7-2 win over Israeli side Maccabi Haifa in the play-off, North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur should progress in the competition. They were drawn against Ludogorets, LASK and Royal Antwerp in Group J. The final English representative, Leicester City were pulled from pot 2 and will face Braga, AEK Athens and Zorya Luhansk in Group G. With the top two in each group progressing to the round of 32, you can be confident that all three English clubs will reach the knockout stages.

Can AC Milan continue their good luck?

There was a brief moment in time where it looked as though the seven-time Champions League winners may not even play in European competition this season. After coming from behind to win their second qualifying round clash against Norwegian opponents Bodø/Glimt, I Rossoneri looked all but out against Portuguese club Rio Ave in the play-off. A Hakan Çalhanoğlu penalty deep into stoppage time after 120 minutes took the game to a shoot-out and fortune favoured Milan, who went through 9-8 winners.

A shadow of their former selves, having finished sixth in Serie A last campaign, they’ll face Celtic, Sparta Prague and Lille in Group H – and could well find themselves dumped out of the Europa League at the earliest stage if they don’t improve.