The much-awaited draw for this year’s Europa League was conducted one day after the more-prestigious Champions League draw with Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig and Pokal winners Eintracht Frankfurt discovering their group fates.
Following on from what can only be described as a dismal showing by Bundesliga clubs last season, it is imperative the German entrants produce a better showing this time around as there are far reaching consequences should they not. The UEFA coefficient table, which works out a country’s allocation of European places based on a five-year ranking system, will lose the points from 2013-14 and add those on from 2017-18.
France who are currently the fifth ranked nation have closed the gap on fourth placed Germany and only the top for nations are currently granted four spaces in the Champions League. The French have taken the World Cup crown and now they’re coming for Germany’s European allocation!
Here’s the low-down on what this seasons draw means for the Bundesliga’s finest.
Bayer Leverkusen (Group A- Ludogorets, FC Zürich, AEK Larnaca)
The Werkself, former winners of the old UEFA Cup in 1988, were the first of the 48 clubs drawn out of the pots and will be very pleased with the draw as they have arguably a very winnable group.
Bulgarian side Ludogorets shouldn’t cause too many problems and the short trip to Switzerland to face FC Zürich, coached by former VfB Stuttgart defender Ludovic Magnin, should also be fairly straightforward. Cypriot side Larnaca make up Group A.
Heiko Herrlich: “We are the favourites, we accept that, Regardless of the draw, we have long ago made it very clear that we want to be first in our group and move forward.”
RB Leipzig (Group B- Celtic, Red Bull Salzburg, Rosenborg)
Leipzig’s first taste of Champions League football served as a real lesson last season as they failed to make it out of their group. They did however move into the Europa League, but were ultimately knocked-out at the quarter-final stage by Marseille.
After being given a real scare in their play-off with Zorya Luhansk, Ralf Rangnick’s side have been drawn in Group B along with Glasgow Celtic, fellow Red Bull stable mates Salzburg and Norwegians Rosenborg.
It will be fascinating to see how the meeting of two teams from the same ‘franchise’ goes down and whether there is any fall-out from the games. Celtic will provide a real test at Celtic Park, while an old Bundesliga favourite in ‘Lord’ Niklas Bendtner awaits Leipzig at Rosenborg.
Ralf Rangnick: “It’s a difficult and exciting group – certainly for the spectators as well. The draw could not have been more attractive for us. Playing at Celtic Park will be a highlight for us and certainly for many fans.
“Of course, the match against Salzburg is a special one – for me and certainly also one or two of our players.”
Eintracht Frankfurt (Group H- Lazio, Marseille, Apollon Limassol)
The Adler return to European competition for the first time since 2013-14 and only those with a very long memory will remember Eintracht winning the competition way back in 1980 when they beat Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Adi Hütter has drawn one of the trickier groups with former winners Lazio and Marseille (last season’s finalists) complimented by minnows Apollon from Cyprus.
Fredi Bobic: “We have drawn a very demanding group with big hurdles. We will have to put in everything, in order to reach our goal, the next round. Lazio is a team well versed in Europe. Ciro Immobile and Sergei Milinkovic-Savic are certainly the most dazzling names. Anyway, the Olympic Stadium in Rome is worth a visit.
“Also in Marseille we can expect a beautiful stadium and a strong team, an absolute top team in the country of the world champions. The fans of Olympique are also in a class of their own. With Apollon Limassol we have certainly got the most uncomfortable opponent from pot four in the group. Cypriot teams are very difficult to play. I’m really looking forward to the trips and the great games. And for our fans it will be something very special: with these opponents even more than expected.”
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