The most easterly game in the history of UEFA club competition group stages kicks off matchday two of the UEFA Europa League, with old rivals and new friends in action all over the continent. Remember to keep next Thursday night clear.
FC Shakhter Karagandy's first Group L home fixture will break new ground for UEFA competitions, their meeting with Maccabi Haifa FC in Astana extending the boundaries of the group stage further east than ever before. The Israeli side will make their second trip to Kazakhstan, following a more modest 2,700km voyage to FC Aktobe in 2009. Their destination this time is 3,600km away – approximately as far east as Mumbai.
FC Dynamo Kyiv's journey to SK Rapid Wien is less arduous – a mere 1,050km – though there may be some trepidation among older fans as they approach the Group G encounter. Their matchday two assignment will be the seventh game between the clubs in European competition, and Rapid are now on a three-match winning streak against the Ukrainian outfit, having lost their first three duels.
Other teams who have locked horns before include Group B rivals PFC Ludogorets Razgrad and GNK Dinamo Zagreb, with the Croatian title holders having eliminated their Bulgarian counterparts in last season's UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, while Trabzonspor AŞ fell to their Group J guests SS Lazio in the 1994/95 UEFA Cup third round.
Dimitris Salpingidis, meanwhile, may have mixed feelings as PAOK FC travel to AZ Alkmaar in Group L. The striker has made more UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League appearances than any other player in this term's tournament – 62 – and scored two of his 28 UEFA club competition goals when his side tackled AZ in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup first round, though they lost that tie 4-3 on aggregate.
Real Betis Balompié, meanwhile, have never faced their Group I hosts HNK Rijeka, yet the Croatian ensemble – beaten 4-0 at Vitória SC on matchday one – will be hoping the date of this fixture augurs well. Back on 3 October 1984, they overcame Real Valladolid CF 4-1 to win a UEFA Cup first round tie, and 21 days later they received more Spanish visitors, sending Real Madrid CF back to Spain with a 3-1 defeat.
Meanwhile, Wigan Athletic FC will play their first European home game, against NK Maribor in Group D. In the same section, FC Rubin Kazan will look to record a seventh successive European victory without conceding at their Centralniy Stadion, with SV Zulte Waregem the guests.
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