Arsenal were handed two mammoth trips across the continent in Friday’s Europa League group stage draw while Chelsea will be confident of progressing with ease.
Unai Emery, a three-time Europa League champion with Sevilla, will lead the Gunners on an 8,000 mile round-trip to Azerbaijan and Ukraine for games against Qarabag and Vorskla Poltava. Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon completed Group E.
Maurizio Sarri’s first European campaign with Chelsea will see them play in Group L alongside Greek side PAOK, BATE Borisov of Belarus and Vidi in Hungary.
ARSENAL, CHELSEA, CELTIC AND RANGERS’ GROUP STAGE DRAWS
Red Bull Salzburg
ARSENAL’S TREACHEROUS TRIPS
London to Qarabag – 4,938 mile round trip
London to Poltava – 3,028 mile round trip
Total: 7,966 miles
The Gunners crashed out in the semi-finals of last season’s competition to eventual champions Atletico Madrid but face a tough task early on this time round.
Qarabag were in the Champions League last season and claimed memorable draws against Atletico that sent them crashing out of the competition.
Portuguese club Sporting are also a danger and have started their domestic campaign unbeaten, despite a troublesome summer that saw seven players cancel their contracts following an attack by fans at the training ground last season.
Steven Gerrard’s Rangers were handed the most difficult task of the British teams. They were drawn to play against Spanish side Villarreal, Russians Spartak Moscow and Austria’s Rapid Wien in Group G.
Celtic, meanwhile, were handed a difficult trip to last season’s semi-finalists Red Bull Salzburg and their parent club RB Leipzig in Group B. Brendan Rodgers will also see his team take on Norwegian side Rosenborg.
Emery’s former club Sevilla, winners of this competition in 2005/06, 2006/07, 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16, will launch their campaign for a sixth title in Group J against Krasnodar, Standard Liege and Akhisar.
Last year’s beaten finalists Marseille will begin their journey to go one step better this time round in Group H against Lazio, Frankfurt and Apollon Limassol.
European giants AC Milan dodged one of the big names from pot one and landed a date with Olympiacos, who beat Burnley on Thursday night to claim their place in the group stage. The Rossoneri will also go up against Spanish team Real Betis and Dudelange of Luxembourg.