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Arsenal’s Europa League Rivals – Group Stage and Beyond

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This Thursday will mark the beginning of Arsenal’s 2019/20 Europa League campaign. This will be the club’s third consecutive season in the competition and Unai Emery’s men will be looking to go all the way having reached the semi-final and final in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The biggest plus from the group stage draw was how little travelling will be involved for Unai emery’s side. When you compare it to the distance that Man United will have to travel during the group stage, Arsenal have definitely gotten lucky in this regard. In this piece we’ll take look at Arsenal’s rivals for the crown this season, starting with the group stage opponents and then further down the line at some of the front-runners and teams which could possibly drop into the competition following the Champions League group stages.

Group Stage Opponents:

Eintracht Frankfurt:

Arsenal will kick off their Europa League campaign away to Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany next Thursday in what will most likely be the most difficult game of the group stage. After a stellar campaign last season, the German side managed to reached the semi-finals narrowly losing out to Chelsea in a penalty shootout. They were lead by Serbian Luka Jovic last time out with the impressive striker scoring 10 goals on their run to the semi-final. With Jovic now at Real Madrid following a big money move in the summer, Eintracht will be looking for somebody to step up in his absence. They currently lie seventh in the Bundesliga but they have a formidable home record so Thursday definitely looks like a tricky tie for Arsenal.

Standard Liege:

Arsenal’s second group opponent is Belgian side Standard Liege. The sides last met in the Champions League group stage in the 2009/10 season with Arsenal coming out on top in both games. The Belgian’s will be no pushover after making an excellent start to the domestic league campaign they lie top of the table after six games played. They don’t have a great record in the competition after having failed to advance from their group on their previous four appearances. They will be looking to improve on that record this year but with Arsenal and Eintracht Frankfurt in the group, progression will be very difficult.

Vitoria SC:

Vitoria Sporting Clube of Portugal have endured a torrid start to this season domestically taking only three points from their first four matches. Last season’s top scorer Toze left this summer for a move to the UAE so goals will be something that the Guimares side may struggle to get this season. In their only previous appearance in the competition, Vitoria finished bottom of their group and the same may well be expected this time around. The meeting of the Arsenal and Vitoria this season will be the first competitive fixture between the sides and Arsenal will be expecting six points from the two games against the Portuguese side.

Europa League Front-Runners:

The other two English sides in the competition will both look to go far in the competition with Manchester United in particular viewing this as a route back into the Champions League. United’s league form has been anything but consistent under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer so this may prove the best route to Champions Legaue qualification. They no-doubt have the quality to compete with anybody in the competition but it may be a case of how they prioritise the different competitions which decides how far United go.

Wolves may not have a big enough squad to compete on all fronts this season but XI vs. XI, Wolves can give anybody a tough night. We have seen this in the Premier League over the last season as they have gotten results against all of the Premier League’s top-six.

Other contenders for the crown will be familiar to fans of European football. Porto have undoubted quality and European pedigree. Them along with Italian giants Roma are probably the two best sides in the competition after Arsenal and Manchester United. The likes of Sevilla and Besiktas will also look to make a dent in the competition. Sevilla, in particular can never be ruled out of contention having won the competition on four occasions. As Unai Emery will know as well as anybody, having been in charge of the Spanish side for three of those triumphs.

Champions League Possibilities

It is very difficult to predict what teams could join Arsenal and Manchester United in the Europa League after Christmas as anything is possible in the Champions League. Taking an educate guess there are a few of the groups that you can say who may finish third.

Red Bull Salzburg and Inter Milan are two of the highest profiled teams who are likely to drop into the Europa League. With Salzburg being placed in a group with Liverpool and Napoli it is very possible that they will be in Europe’s secondary competition after Christmas. The same can be said for Antonio Conte’s side as they have been drawn with both Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund.

Either of these sides would provide a formidable opponent for Arsenal and a possible roadblock for Arsenal going one better than last season and winning the competition.

Other lesser-profiled teams which may appear in the Europa League after Christmas includes the likes of Galatasaray, Valencia, Zenit St. Petersburg or Benfica to name just a few. Any of these would be tricky ties for Arsenal but also ties that you would expect them to be victorious in.

Summary

Much like previous years, you would expect Arsenal to progress from the group with no real drama. They do not have an easy group by any means but they should not be worried by any of their opponents. After that it will get trickier but with Arsenal having improved depth in the squad this season I would expect them to go close to lifting the title next May in Gdansk.

Don’t buy the flights to Gdansk just yet, but it’s a strong possibility that Arsenal will be there.

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