By Jonathan Twumasi. LAST UPDATED September 15th, 2016

2016/17 UEFA Europa League preview

With 48 teams across 12 groups, the 2016 Europa League is a feast of football



With record four time champions and winners of the previous three tournaments Sevilla playing with the big boys in the Champions League, who will take their place as champions of the Europa League?

Group A

19-time Premier League champions Manchester United headline this group and will doubtlessly feel they are too big to be slumming it in the Europa League.

The FA Cup Winners have a proud European history, but this season will be United’s first ever in the Europa League group stages.

Will manager Jose Mourinho’s win at all costs mentality shine through despite playing in outposts such as Luhansk or will he use the stage to give youngsters like Marcus Rashford and Timothy Fosu-Mensah a chance?

The Red Devils open away to Feyernoord, two time UEFA Cup winners. The Dutch side, managed by former Arsenal left-back Giovanni van Bronckhorst, won the Dutch Cup last season.

Ukrainian’s Zorya Luhansk make their debut in a UEFA group stage as they welcome Fenerbache who have never won against Ukrainian opposition in six attempts on matchday one.


Group B

Swiss club Young Boys will encounter Greek opposition for the first time as they host ex-Portugal manager Paulo Bento’s Olympiakos team on matchday one.

The diversity of UEFA’s second competition is evident in Group B as Cypriots APOEL Nicosia play  Kazhak’s FC Astana. The two met in the playoff round in 2015 with Astana winning 2-1 on aggregate.


Group C

European competition regulars RSC Anderlecht play Azerbaijani opposition for the second successive year as they host Gabala SC. Gabala reached the first qualifying round last season.

Joining them will be fellow group stage newbies Mainz. The German club will encounter French opposition for the first time in European competition as they face Saint-Etienne who are currently 12th in Ligue 1 after last Friday’s draw with PSG.


Group D

Dundalk fans will enjoy every second of their 750km journey to Alkmaar in the opening game. The Irish team are on the most successful European run in their 113-year history. Lilywhites fans will hope that run can continue against AZ, but Dundalk have never won against Dutch opposition in four encounters .

2008 Uefa Cup winners FC Zenit are unbeaten in six games this season and play Maccabi Tel-Aviv, with former Rangers striker Shota Arveladze managing the Israeli side. Zenit’s Mircea Lucescu is the most experienced coach in this years competition.


Group E

Champions League regulars AS Roma visit Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic in their first Europa League appearance since the 2009/10 season.

Romanian champions Astra Giurgiu are unbeaten in their last seven European home games and welcome Austria Wien, who have won all three European away fixtures this season.


Group F

Rapid Wien and Genk have some Europa League history; the pair drew both games  when they met in the group stage in 2013 whilst 2012 finalists Athletic Bilbao travel to Italy to play debutants Sassuolo.


Group G

Although they met in 2006, Belgian Cup winners Standard Liege welcome a Celta Vigo team who are bottom of La Liga with three straight losses.

Dutch giants Ajax won their first European Cup against matchday one opponents Panathinaikos in the 1971 final at Wembley.


Group H

Braga welcome Belgian’s Gent to Portugal, hoping to replicate their 2011 final appearance this year.

Continental regulars Shakhtar Donestk will hope to teach a lesson to Turkish newbies Konyaspor.


Group I

A Mario Balotelli-led OGC Nice welcome 1997 UEFA Cup winners Schalke to the south of France, whilst the energy drink fuelled Salzburg host Russians Krasnodar in the other game.


Group J

Qarabag lost to Czech opposition in the UCL qualifiers and will hope for redemption against Slovan Liberec.

Fiorentina bettered PAOK in the group stage in 2014, and will hope to do so again as they return to the competition for a fourth successive year.


Group K

Southampton finally make it to the group stage of a UEFA competition. Opening opponents Sparta Prague should not be much of a threat at St Mary’s; they have not beaten English opponents since 1983.

Italian’s Internazionale should prove slightly trickier for the Saints; they were Champions League winners six seasons ago and host Israeli’s Hapoel Beer-Sheva.


Group L

2015/16 semi-finalists Villareal met FC Zurich in 2014 in two high-scoring encounters, with 10 goals scored over the two games.

Current Osmanlispor striker Raul Rucescu scored 34 goals in 65 league games for Steaua Bucharest.