Olympique Marseille are heading from the Mediterranean almost as far as the North Sea as they visit Dutch side Groningen in their opening Group F fixture.
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FC Groningen embark on their first UEFA Europa League group stage campaign with a somewhat intimidating home game against 1993 European champions Olympique de Marseille in Group F.
• The sides are meeting for the first time in European competition.
• Groningen's only previous encounter with French opponents was a 3-0 1997 UEFA Intertoto Cup group stage loss at Montpellier Hérault SC.
• Marseille's 13 matches against Dutch sides ended W5 D2 L6 (W3 D1 L3 at home - W2 D1 L3 in the Netherlands). Their most recent memories of the Netherlands are positive ones: Tyrone Mears scored an extra-time goal to earn them a 2-2 draw at AFC Ajax – and a 4-3 aggregate win – in the 2008/09 UEFA Cup round of 16.
• Groningen are without a win in their last four European games – W0 D3 L1
• Marseille are without a win in ten European games (D1 L9), with their most recent European campaign in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League group stage ending point-less. They have not won in six European away games (D1 L5) since a 2-1 win at FC Sheriff in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League play-offs.
• Groningen are featuring in the group stage of a major UEFA competition for the first time. They are set to match their longest-ever European campaign with their six Group F games, having also played six matches by reaching the third round of the 1988/89 UEFA Cup.
• Marseille have featured in this group stage in two previous campaigns; they made it through to the 2005/06 UEFA Cup round of 32, but missed the cut in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League.
Trivia and links
• The journey from Marseille to Groningen is just over 1,100km, from the Mediterranean to within a few kilometres of the North Sea.
• Marseille defender Paolo De Ceglie – on loan from Juventus – turns 29 on the day of the Groningen game.
• Groningen midfielder Hedwiges Maduro can make his 50th UEFA club competition appearance on matchday one. The former AFC Ajax man returned to the Netherlands this summer after spells with Valencia CF, Sevilla FC and PAOK FC.
• Marseille boast Dutch talent in the form of centre-back Karim Rekik; the 20-year-old former Feyenoord trainee came to France this summer from Manchester City FC. He spent the last two seasons on loan at PSV Eindhoven, with whom he won the 2014/15 Eredivisie title.
• Previously assistant coach, Erwin van de Looi took sole command at Groningen in 2013; they qualified for Europe in his first season, and last time out won their first Dutch Cup. A former Dutch Under-21 international, he played UEFA Cup football with Vitesse, ending his injury-ravaged playing days at Groningen in 2002.
• Míchel replaced Marcelo Bielsa as Marseille coach in August 2015. A two-time UEFA Cup winner with Real Madrid CF in the 1980s, he has coached Getafe CF and Sevilla FC in his native Spain, and came to France after leading Olympiacos FC to three successive domestic titles in Greece.