2011/12 UEFA Europa League Preview

The UEFA Europa League Group Draw is as follows: Group A: Tottenham, Rubin Kazan, PAOK, Shamrock Rovers. Group B: FC Copenhagen, Standard Liege, Hannover 96, Vorskla Poltava. Group C: PSV Eindhoven, Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Rapid Bucuresti, Legia Warsaw. Group D: Sporting Lisbon, Lazio, FC Zurich, FC Vaslui. Group E: Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas, Stoke, Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Group F: PSG, Athletic Bilbao, SV Red Bull Salzburg, Slovan Bratislava. Group G: AZ, Metalist Kharkiv, FK Austria Vienna, Malmo FF. Group H: Braga, Club Brugge, Birmingham, Maribor. Group I: Atletico Madrid, Udinese, Rennes, Sion/Celtic. Group J: Schalke 04, Steaua Bucuresti, Maccabi Haifa, AEK Larnaca. Group K: FC Twente, Fulham, Odense, Wisla Krakow. Group L: Anderlecht, AEK Athens, Lokomotiv Moscow, SK Sturm Graz. Atletico Madrid, the 2010 Europa League winners, were handed a tough draw for the group stage. The Rojiblancos were placed in Group I alongside Serie A side Udinese, who exited the Champions League play-offs to Arsenal in midweek, French outfit Rennes and Swiss club Sion/ Scottish club Celtic.  Sions participation in this competition has been dragged through the courts and right now it is unclear whether or not they will be allowed to participate in this years competition or whether they will be replaced by Celtic.  This group might be the hardest group to qualify from. Group F is also intriguing with big-spending Paris St Germain lining up alongside Athletic Bilbao, Salzburg and Slovan Bratislava. PSG with their big summer “shopping cart” on the transfer market, are among the favorites to claim Europe’s second-tier competition but Athletic should provide healthy competition in the battle for top spot in the pool. Tottenham will face Irish giantkillers Shamrock Rovers. The first Irish side to have progressed to this stage of European football beat Partizan Belgrade 2-1 in a deciding match to secure a place at this stage. The clubs are in Group A against Rubin Kazan, from Russia, and Greek side PAOK Salonika.  Tottenham should qualify from this group but it looks as though their manager hopes they don’t. Hannover, conquerors of Sevilla, will meet FC Copenhagen, Standard Liege and Vorskla Poltova in Group B while Group C lists PSV Eindhoven, Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Rapid Bucharest and Legia Warsaw. Lazio and Sporting Lisbon ought to contest top spot in Group D which also contains FC Zurich and FC Vaslui; AZ Alkmaar, Metalist Kharkiv, Austria Vienna and Malmo are in Group G; Schalke will be satisfied to have been pooled alongside Steaua Bucharest, Maccabi Haifa and AEK Larnaca in Group J while Group L contains Anderlecht, AEK Athens, Lokomotiv Moscow and Sturm Graz. Good to see tough groups and good to have a few new names in amongst the more established sides. We will have plenty of matches to watch and of course to bet on!]]>