Arsenal learn Europa League group stage fate as Sporting await

Arsenal learn Europa League group stage fate as Sporting await

Gunners drawn against Portuguese, Ukranian and Azerbaijani opposition.

Matt Dawson

The 48 teams competing in the 2018/19 Europa League learned their group stage opponents on Friday afternoon.

Arsenal were drawn in group E, where they'll face Sporting Lisbon, Qarabag and Vorskla.

The Gunners reached the semi-final of the competition last season, before being knocked out by Atletico Madrid

About the opponents

The toughest test for Arsenal will be Portuguese side Sporting, a club who finished third in the Primeira Liga last campaign.

However, they won't be as strong an opponent as they would have been had the two teams met last season. Over the summer nine players quit the club after fans attacked the training ground in May.

The likes of Rui Patricio, William Carvalho and Gelson Martins all left Sporting but they are left with some talented individuals at their disposal.

Among those attempting to push Arsenal for top spot in the group will be Nani and Bas Dost who are two of their key men.

As well as facing Sporting, Arsenal will come up against Azerbaijani and Ukrainian opponents, which could both represent tricky away ties.

Qarabag of Azerbaijan have qualified for the Champions League on four occasions and faced Chelsea in the competition last season.

This will be their tenth time in the Europa League after finishing top of their domestic league, but failing to come through the Champions League play-off round.

As for Ukrainian team Vorskla, this will be their first appearance in the group stages of the Europa League since 2011-12. They reached the competition this season by finishing third in the Ukrainian Premier League last term.

Emery's European pedigree

Arsenal will come into this season's Europa League as one of the favourites for the crown, especially with Unai Emery at the helm.

The Spaniard helped Sevilla to three Europa League wins on the bounce from 2014-2016 and he will be searching for another as he aims to get Arsenal back in the Champions League at his first attempt.

He failed to get close to a Champions League title with PSG but knows what it takes in its sister competition.

It's expected that Emery will take the competition very seriously, but whether or not he'll play as many youngsters as Arsene Wenger did last year remains to be seen.

Rotation is likely and with Arsenal's deep squad they should be expected to qualify easily from their group. 

Groups of interest

Among other British interest will be Chelsea who will be hoping to repeat their Europa League triumph from 2012-13. 

They were drawn in group L with BATE Borisov, PAOK and Vidi FC

Old Firm rivals Celtic and Rangers have also qualified for the competition. 

Brendan Rodgers men were drawn against Red Bull Leipzig, Red Bull Salzburg and Rosenborg

As for Rangers, their European adventure will include games against Villarreal, Rapid Vienna and Spartak Moscow