This Thursday night will see the start of the group stages of the 2019-20 Europa League. Last season we saw Chelsea emerging as winners following a 4-1 over Arsenal in Azerbaijan. This time around there will be Premier League clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers in action.
Arsenal will be keen to avenge their disappointing performance in the Europa League final last May, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be desperate to show that he can bring some silverware to Old Trafford. Wolves have already shown promise in the Europa League qualifiers, but with top teams like Roma, Sevilla, Lazio, Porto and Celtic in the football tournament, it’s going to be a tough battle.
The Europa League 2019/20 groups
The group matches of the 2019/20 Europa League will see 48 teams battling it out to reach the knock-out rounds. It follows a round-robin format where each team has to play home and away games against the other sides in their group. The matches begin on 19 September and run through to 12 December 2019.
- Group A: Sevilla, APOEL, Qarabag, F91 Dudelange
- Group B: Dynamo Kyiv, Copenhagen, Malmo FF, Lugano
- Group C: Basel, Krasnodar, Getafe, Trabzonspor
- Group D: Sporting CP, PSV Eindhoven, Roseborg, LASK
- Group E: Lazio, Celtic, Rennes, CFR Cluj
- Group F: Arsenal, Eintracht Frankfurt, Standard Liege, Vitoria de Guimaraes
- Group G: Porto, Young Boys, Feyenoord, Rangers
- Group H: CSKA Moscow, Espanyol, Ludogorets Razgrad, Ferencvaros
- Group I: VfL Wolfsburg, KAA Gent, Saint-Etienne, Oleksandriya
- Group J: Roma, Borussia Monchengladbach, Istanbul Basaksehir, Wolfsberger AC
- Group K: Besiktas, Braga, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Slovan Bratislava
- Group L: Manchester United, Astana, Partizan Belgrade, AK Alkmaar
Arsenal – A chance to make amends for last season’s Europa League disappointments
Arsenal have never won the Europa league, and their defeat by Chelsea marked the second time that they have played in a final. The club’s dismal performance in last season’s Europa League final capped off what was a fairly mediocre season for the North London team. However, Unai Emery spent much of the summer making some big money signings, and so there is every chance that Arsenal could go one better this time around.
Arsenal are in Group F alongside the German club Eintracht Frankfurt, the Belgian side Standard Liege, and the Portuguese team Vitoria de Guimaraes. Unai Emery’s team are widely tipped to come out top of Group F.
However, Eintracht Frankfurt are a tough side, and their young forward Dejan Joveljic could make things difficult for the notoriously leaky Arsenal defence. Arsenal have one of the worst records in the Premier League for giving away unnecessary goals. They will have to make sure that they have learned from their recent mistakes against Watford in their first Europa League game at Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday night.
Standard Liege are currently at the top of the Belgian First Division A table, while Vitoria de Guimaraes have had a middling start to their campaign in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Both of these teams will struggling to contain the likes of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang who has already bagged five goals in the Premier League.
However, there are big concerns over Aubameyang’s striking partner Alexandre Lacazette who will be out of action due to an ongoing ankle injury until October. This could give new signing Nicolas Pepe a chance to show his true worth. Pepe was signed for a club record fee of £72 million this summer, but has failed to score for his new team.
David Luiz is another Arsenal signing who will have to prove himself in the Europa League. The Brazilian player made some catastrophic errors in recent matches against Liverpool and Watford, and his blunders won’t have helped Arsenal’s dismal reputation for defending.
While there are still questions about Granit Xhaka’s place in the team, there are signs that Dani Ceballos could be a real game-changer for Arsenal this season. The Spanish star came to Arsenal on loan from Real Madrid, and he has already proven to be a big hit with the fans. But unless the North London side get some silverware soon, then time could be running out for Unai Emery.
Manchester United – Solskjaer still keen to impress with new-look side
United fans will be desperately disappointed not to be in the Champions League this year, but it’s clear that this is a team undergoing a lengthy period of transition. Their boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has certainly helped remove some of the negativity associated with the Jose Mourinho era, but Manchester United still look a long way from their best.
Despite this, there is real hope that Solskjaer’s team could work wonders in this year’s Europa League. Manchester United have been drawn in Group K opposite the Portuguese side Braga, the Serbian club Partizan Belgrade, and the Dutch team AZ Alkmaar.
It would be a complete disaster if Manchester United failed to win Group K ahead of relatively insignificant opposition. AZ Alkmaar are currently fifth place in the Dutch Eredivisie, while Astana are in third place in the Kazakhstan Premier League. Partizan Belgrade could be a difficult team to beat on home turf, especially as they have promising players like Nigeria’s Umar Sadiq up front.
Manchester United have only one Europa League triumph to their name. They claimed the trophy in 2017 with a 2-0 win over Ajax thanks to goals from Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Such memories should spur on Manchester United to claim something from what could be another mediocre season.
Solskjaer’s team are currently fourth place in the Premier League table with two wins and two draws from their five games. They started their campaign in fine style with a resounding 4-0 home win over Chelsea before grinding to a halt with a 1-1 draw against Wolves. This was followed by a catastrophic 1-2 home defeat at the hands on Crystal Palace, and another uninspiring draw against Southampton.
However, their recent 1-0 home win against a difficult Leicester side will have given Solskjaer some comfort. Harry Maguire seems to be stabilising the United defence, Marcus Rashford is looking better in front of goal with every week that passes, and youngsters like Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are showing that Manchester United could be building for a bright future.
Of course, there is still the issue of Paul Pogba to deal with. The French star seems to have a better relationship with Solskjaer than he did with Mourinho, although he might miss United’s opening Europa League clash against Astana as a result of his ankle injury. Plus with ongoing rumours that Pogba could be heading to Real Madrid, it could be another indication that Manchester United are in a real period of transition.
Wolves – Underdogs in with a chance of impressing in this year’s Europa League
2019 marks the first time that Wolves have played European football in nearly four decades. They made the UEFA CUP finals in 1972 and they also went out in the first round of the UEFA Cup in 1981 at the hands of PSV Eindhoven.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s team have already shown plenty of promise in the Europa Cup qualifiers. They started out with a thumping 6-1 win over Crusaders from Northern Ireland, before destroying the Armenian team Pyunik 0-8. Things got tougher in the play-off round with a tricky clash against Torino, but Wolves held their nerve and entered the group stages thanks to impressive 2-3 and 1-2 wins.
From here, Wolves face an interesting time in Group J. The Turkish team Besiktas have plenty of international stars like the Croatian defender Domagoj Vida, while the Portuguese side Braga are currently in the upper reaches of the Portuguese Primeira LIga. Although Wolves should get a decent result against Slovan Bratislava, they would need a lot of luck to make to the Europa League final.
This is especially so as Wolves have already seen their Premier League campaign affected by the busy playing schedule. Ideally Wolves should be a club who are threatening the top six, but the side are now second bottom of the Premier League table with no wins, three draws and two losses.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side suffered a crushing 2-5 loss at the hands of Chelsea last weekend, and they look a long way from being their best. Although credible results like a draw against Manchester United should not be discounted, it’s clear that Wolves’ opening Europa League match against Braga is even more of a must-win situation.
Other contenders for winning the 2019/20 Europa League
The past four Europa League finals have featured no less than four Premier League clubs. Last year’s all-England final could easily happen again as both Arsenal and Manchester United are among the front-runners to win this year’s competition. However, some of the following teams could give them some serious problems.
This Spanish team are the most successful team in the Europa League as they have won the competition five times. This included three successive Europa League triumphs between 2014 and 2016. Sevilla have made a great start to their La Liga campaign and have somehow emerged at the top of the table with three wins and one draw out of their opening four matches.
Few would deny that Roma are real contenders for this year’s Europa League. Although Paulo Fonseca’s team have suffered a mixed start to their Serie A season, their recent 4-2 win over Sassuolo has shown that they are still a force to be reckoned with. This is particularly so as Henrikh Mkhitaryan is looking like he’s settling in well at the Italian club.
Lazio are another classic Italian team who are struggling in the Serie A, but could work wonders in the Europa League. Simone Inzaghi’s side started in fine style with a 3-0 win over Sampdoria, but suffered a recent 2-1 defeat by SPAL. But with quality players like Joaquin Correa and Ciro Immobile in their ranks, Lazio should emerge ahead of the likes of Celtic in Group E.
Oliver Glasner’s team are currently unbeaten in the Bundesliga, and they have the joint-best defensive record in German football at the moment. Although Wout Weghorst can cause problems up-front, Wolfsburg might struggle against the bigger teams in the Europa League.
This Portuguese team have won the Europa League twice in the past two decades. Their most recent success came in 2011 when they beat Braga 1-0 in an all-Portugal final. Keep an eye on star players like Shoya Nakajima and Pepe as Porto aim for their third Europa League title.
This German side have a pretty good record in the Europa League having won two of the four finals that they have played in. Marco Rose’s team might not win the tournament this time around, but you can count on players like Marcus Thuram and Breel Embolo to play some entertaining football.
Celtic came close to winning the 2002/3 Europa League but were beaten 3-2 by Porto. This time Neil Lennon’s side have to deal with Lazio in Group E. But with James Forrest on hand to score plenty of goals, there is some hope that they might make the knock-out rounds once more.