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Group stage entrants reveal hopes and fears

Published: Friday 26 August 2011, 19.22CET
While Shamrock Rovers FC are just happy to be involved, the likes of Tottenham Hotspur FC and Club Atlético de Madrid are already thinking about the prospect of glory next May.

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Published: Friday 26 August 2011, 19.22CET

Group stage entrants reveal hopes and fears

While Shamrock Rovers FC are just happy to be involved, the likes of Tottenham Hotspur FC and Club Atlético de Madrid are already thinking about the prospect of glory next May.

Some clubs are just delighted to be in the UEFA Europa League group stage, but for others the draw marks the beginning of what they hope will be a season that ends in continental silverware.

We wanted a big one – we got Tottenham, Rubin Kazan, Champions League teams. I think we would have taken anybody
Shamrock Rovers chairman Jonathan Roach

Shamrock Rovers FC are the first side from the Republic of Ireland to reach the group stage of a major UEFA competition and chairman Jonathan Roche can now look forward to a mouth-watering Group A that includes FC Rubin Kazan, PAOK FC, and top seeds Tottenham Hotspur FC.

"Our football club made history last night, it was a magnificent night," Roche said. "[The draw is] what we wanted. We wanted a big one – we got Tottenham, Rubin Kazan, Champions League teams. I think we would have taken anybody. Tottenham, because they are so close to us, is a great draw for our fans."

While Spurs director Darren Eales called it "a challenging section", he was also hopeful of success in the competition after such an excellent run in the UEFA Champions League last term, when the Lilywhites made the quarter-finals. "We've got a great history in the competition when it was the old UEFA Cup," he said. "We won it twice, so we would like to add this trophy to that collection."

A side with more recent European silverware to their name is Club Atlético de Madrid. The winners of the inaugural UEFA Europa League in 2010, they have been paired in a tough-looking pool with Udinese Calcio, Stade Rennais FC and FC Sion.

"When you come to the draw and see all the show and excitement, and then you hear the name of Atlético Madrid as a Europa League winner, it's always something very special," club director Clemente Villaverde said. "It means that we have been there, we managed to win it, and why not try to win it again."

Udinese midfielder Giampiero Pinzi is certainly wary of his side's Group I opponents. "Atlético Madrid are a very strong team – we remember them winning this competition," he said. "But also the French side in our group, Rennes, will be tough."

A different Ligue 1 outfit, Paris Saint-Germain FC, are also hoping to make waves in the competition after heavy investment in the summer. Their coach, Antoine Kombouaré, said: "It's an open draw. [Athletic Club] Bilbao are a strong team. [FC] Salzburg are used to playing in Europe, knocking out Juventus last year, and [ŠK Slovan] Bratislava are also a quality team, seeing off AS Roma. We'll have to play very seriously."

Next May's final is being held in Bucharest, and FC Steaua Bucureşti captain Ciprian Tătărușanu is hopeful of reaching the knockout stages as his side bid to play a final on home soil. "It is a very accessible section," he said of Group J, which also includes FC Schalke 04, Maccabi Haifa FC and AEK Larnaca FC. "We should be able to take maximum points off our opponents apart from Schalke."

Last updated: 27/11/12 14.42CET

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