Chelsea will discover their Europa League fate for the upcoming season when the draw for the group stage is made at Friday lunchtime in Monaco.
The west London club are back in Europe’s second tier competition for the first time since 2013, when they lifted the title under interim boss Rafa Benitez having crashed out of the Champions League in the groups as defending champs.
Chelsea have been seeded in Pot 1, which means they avoid some of the more dangerous side, though they could still land some tricky opponents…
BEST CASE SCENARIO
Chelsea’s preferred draw
Pot 2: Rapid Vienna
Pot 3: Malmo
Pot 4: Vidi
There are quite a few teams Chelsea would like to avoid in Pot 2, but Rapid Vienna, who are currently fifth in the Austrian Bundesliga, should be relatively easy to overcome – they have the worst UEFA coefficient (21.500) of any side in the second pot.
Save for a couple of stand-out teams, the sides in Pot 3 are much of a muchness, with travel distance perhaps the biggest factor to consider. Swedish side Malmo offer the nicest mix of manageable journey and winnable tie. Pot 4, likewise, offers no teams Chelsea should fear, and Hungarian side Vidi look like the weakest of the bunch along with Luxembourg’s F91 Dudelange.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
Pot 2: AC Milan
Pot 3: Spartak Moscow
Pot 4: Rosenborg
The biggest threat in Pot 2 comes from Serie A, with big-spending AC Milan – who added the likes of Gonzalo Higuain and Mattia Caldara to their squad over the summer – keen to make a huge statement in Europe. Celtic, Sporting and Marseille also look tricky.
In Pot 3, the biggest challenge may come from long-haul flights rather than the quality of opponents on offer. Spartak Moscow present both: they are second in the Russian league and unbeaten this season, while the flight is in excess of five hours. RB Leipzig should also be feared. Norwegian reigning champions and league leaders Rosenborg are the best side in a weak Pot 4.
WHEN IS THE DRAW AND HOW CAN I WATCH IT?
The draw for this year’s Europa League takes place on Friday, August 31 at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. The build-up begins at noon BST and can be watched either on BT Sport or via the live stream on Uefa.com.
WHEN WILL THE MATCHES TAKE PLACE?
Each team will play their group opponents twice, home and away, over six gameweeks. The group stage begins in the middle of September and runs until December, with matches played on Thursday nights.
Europa League group stage dates