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Europa League group stage draw: talking points

New frontiers, the group of death and record books set for a heavy rewrite – UEFA.com picks out the biggest stories to emerge from the UEFA Europa League group stage draw.

A view of the auditorium during the group stage draw
A view of the auditorium during the group stage draw ©Getty Images for UEFA

Familiarity breeds contempt?
Basel had designs on the UEFA Champions League until Tuesday, but, with this season's final at St. Jakob-Park, there was a sense of inevitability about their switch to the UEFA Europa League. Fate played a part in the draw, too. Having guided Basel to a title in his only season in the job, Paulo Sousa makes a rapid return with new side Fiorentina, while Lech Poznań are also no strangers: the Swiss club have already beaten them twice this term. There is no obvious link between Fiorentina and Belenenses, but the Portuguese outfit's coach Ricardo Sá Pinto knows Sousa well: they were international team-mates.

Group of death
There is always one, just ask Manchester City. According to where the teams lined up in their draw pots, Group J takes the prize for the UEFA Europa League: Tottenham, Anderlecht, Monaco and Qarabağ. The Azerbaijani side and their fine home following almost created a huge upset 12 months ago, so nearly beating Internazionale – eventual runners-up Dnipro would have been out if they had. Former winners Tottenham and Anderlecht will provide a stiff test, though (Spurs beat the Belgian side in the 1984 final), and then there is Monaco ...

New frontiers
There are seven UEFA club competition group debutants this season, with Skënderbeu becoming Albania's first representatives at this stage. Sporting, Beşiktaş and Lokomotiv Moskva provide a daunting welcoming committee in Group H, and tough opening assignments were a theme for the draw. Azerbaijan's Qäbälä will face Dortmund, PAOK and Krasnodar in Group C, while Rubin, Liverpool and Bordeaux await Swiss team Sion. Augsburg, meanwhile, must enter the famed dens of Athletic, AZ Alkmaar and Partizan.

Old hands
Club Brugge are in the UEFA Europa League group stage for a record-equalling sixth time in seven editions, and they will be eager to upset a sequence that reads: advanced, out, advanced, out, advanced. Michel Preud'homme's men reached the quarter-finals last term during an impressive campaign that brought the club's first silverware in eight years. They will fancy their chances. Napoli will be as strong as ever, but Club Brugge should have too much for Legia Warszawa and Midtjylland. They are the "Dane killers" after all, having knocked out three Super League teams last season.

©Getty Images

Crowded house
Dortmund have already established new competition attendance records for qualifying (65,190 v Wolfsberg) and play-offs (64,200 v Odd) this season, and in all likelihood the group stage high of 53,123 will be smashed. With Beşiktaş, Celtic, Liverpool, Schalke and Fenerbahçe also involved, this term could mean new marks across the board – will the overall UEFA Europa League record of 67,553 set when Dynamo Kyiv beat Everton 5-2 in March still stand come May?

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