It’s everyone’s favorite European competition, and Chelsea are back in it. There ain’t no fever like a Thursday Night Fever! Except all the other nights of course. Thursday is the worst. But we’re here, we’re the favorites, and we’re contesting the group stage of the Europa League for the very first time — Making History!™ — so let’s see what wonderful new and obscure locations in Europe we shall be visiting.
What: Europa League group stage draw
Where: Grimaldi Forum, Monte Carlo
When: 12pm BST; 7am EDT
Since we’re entering new territory, let’s go over the rules. The Europa League group stage is very much like the Champions League group stage, except with 12 groups of four instead of 8 — that means 48 teams in total instead of 32 — to decide the 24 teams to advance into the Round of 32, where they are joined by 8 third placed teams from the Champions League groups (this is where we joined the competition back in 2012-13).
The draw rules are the same, where teams are drawn from four pots and teams from the same association cannot be drawn against each other — though both Chelsea and Arsenal are in Pot 1, so this isn’t really a concern for us.
Speaking of the seedings, here are the four pots:
POT 1: Sevilla, CHELSEA, Arsenal, Zenit St. Petersburg, Bayer Leverkusen, Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas, RB Salzburg, Olympiacos, Villarreal, Anderlecht, Lazio
POT 2: Sporting Lisbon, Ludogorets, FC Copenhagen, Marseille, Celtic, PAOK, AC Milan, Genk, Fenerbahce,
KubanFC Krasnodar, Astana, Rapid Wien
POT 3: Real Betis, Qarabag, BATE, Dinamo Zagreb, RB Leipzig, Eintracht Frankfurt, Malmö FF, Spartak Moscow, Standard Liège, FC Zürich, Girondins de Bordeaux, Stade Rennais
POT 4: Apollon Limassol, Rosenborg, Vorskla Poltava, Slavia Prague, Akhisar Belediyespor, FK Jablonec, AEK Larnaca, Videoton (or whatever they’re called these days), Rangers, F91 Dudelange, Spartak Trnava, Sarpsborg 08
Certainly some famous or familiar names in there, but also some teams I’ve never heard of (Sarpsborg?) and some that would pose rather significant travel times (Qarabag, that old bag, for example — Baku is where the final will be, by the way).
For ultimate fun-ness, I’d love for us to draw a group with AC Milan, RB Leipzig, and Videoton (“MOL Vidi”) ... but just about any option in Pot 4 could be fun.