UEFA Europa League: Arsenal, Manchester United to carry the English torch

Arsenal lost in the UEFA Europa League final to Chelsea last season. (Source: Twitter)

Arsenal would continue on their search for their first European trophy, along with other European clubs like Manchester United, Roma, PSV Eindhoven, Celtic, and record five-time champions Sevilla as the group stages of UEFA Europa League begins on Thursday.

After losing to Chelsea in last season’s final, Unai Emery’s Arsenal have bolstered their squad with players like Nicolas Pepe, David Luiz, Dani Ceballos and Kieran Tierney. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would look for his first trophy as Manchester United manager as the likes of Paul Pogba, David de Gea and all eye their second Europa League in four years, having won the competition in 2017.

Scottish rivals Celtic and Rangers both have testing paths to the knockout stages, while bitter foes AS Roma and Lazio gear up to end Italy’s two-decade wait for the title. After losing out on the domestic league titles to Benfica and Ajax, Porto, PSV Eindhoven, and Feyenoord have found themselves in Europa League this time around.

The 48-team Europa League welcomes eight third-placed finishers from the Champions League groups for the knockout phase.

Arsenal face a tricky group with last season’s semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt in Group F along with with 10-time Belgian champions Standard Liege and Portugal’s Vitoria Guimaraes. On the other hand, Manchester United have a relatively easier group, with them hosting Astana, a club from Kazakhstan for the first time in club history.

After shocking all with a seventh-place finish in Premier League last season, Wolverhampton Wanderers are back in Europa for the first time since 1980. Nuno Espirito Santo’s men will host SL Braga in their opening game after coming through three qualifying rounds, beating Torino 5-3 on aggregate in the play-offs.

With Scottish champions Celtic travelling to Rennes, winners of Coupe de France after defeating Paris Saint-Germain, and Coppa Italia holders Lazio and CFR Cluj, Group E looks to be the group of death.

Competing as the group of death, Group G has Steven Gerrard’s Rangers along with Jaap Stam’s Feyenoord, Porto and Swiss champions Young Boys. Meanwhile, Paulo Fonseca’s new-look Roma will take on Istanbul Basaksehir in a group which has Borussia Monchengladbach hosting Austria’s Wolfsberg not Germany’s Wolfsburg in the opening group stage game.

The six debutants in the competition are Espanyol, Olexandriya, Ferencvaros, LASK Linz and the aforementioned Wolverhampton Wanderers and Wolfsberg.

UEFA will provide 2.92 million to each of the 48 participating clubs in the group stage and will award the one lifting the trophy on May 27, 2020 in Gdansk, Poland, the prize money of 18 million.