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Get ready for the UEFA Europa League

With 24 games every matchnight, prepare for a frenzied Thursday as the competition kicks off.

Gareth Bale prepares for Spurs' kick-off match
Gareth Bale prepares for Spurs' kick-off match Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

With 48 teams, 24 games and 12 groups, the UEFA Europa League group stage packs 2,160 minutes of football into each matchnight.

As we look ahead to matchday 1, get a feel for a competition that has big names, glamour and nearly as many domestic titleholders as the UEFA Champions League.

Great Matchday 1 goals down the years

Group A: Young Boys vs Roma (18:55 CET), CSKA Sofia vs CFR Cluj (18:55 CET)
Group B: Dundalk vs Molde (18:55 CET), Rapid Wien vs Arsenal (18:55 CET)
Group C: Leverkusen vs Nice (18:55 CET), Hapoel Beer-Sheva vs Slavia Praha (18:55 CET)
Group D: Standard Liège vs Rangers (18:55 CET), Lech Poznań vs Benfica (18:55 CET)
Group E: PSV Eindhoven vs Granada (18:55 CET), PAOK vs Omonoia (18:55 CET)
Group F: Napoli vs AZ Alkmaar (18:55 CET), Rjieka vs Real Sociedad (18:55 CET)
Group G: Braga vs AEK Athens (21:00 CET), Leicester vs Zorya Luhansk (21:00 CET)
Group H: Celtic vs AC Milan (21:00 CET), Sparta Praha vs LOSC Lille (21:00 CET)
Group I: Villarreal vs Sivasspor (21:00 CET), Maccabi Tel-Aviv vs Qarabağ (21:00 CET)
Group J: Tottenham vs LASK (21:00 CET), Ludogorets vs Royal Antwerp (21:00 CET)
Group K: Dinamo Zagreb vs Feyenoord (21:00 CET), Wolfsberg vs CSKA Moskva (21:00 CET)
Group L: Hoffenheim vs Crvena zvezda (21:00 CET), Slovan Liberec vs Gent (21:00 CET)

MATCH OF THE WEEK: Celtic vs AC Milan

This Group H opener is suffused with old-school European glamour, Glasgow giants Celtic preparing for their 11th encounter with seven-time European champions AC Milan. Hoops boss Neil Lennon knows from experience that his team struggle against Milan: he figured in four of the sides' past meetings as a player, and two more as a manager, and did not win any: D2 L4.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon takes on AC Milan's Andrea Pirlo in 2007
Celtic boss Neil Lennon takes on AC Milan's Andrea Pirlo in 2007AFP via Getty Images

Zlatan Ibrahimović may well feature for Stefano Pioli’s men, but despite Celtic’s overall record against Milan (W1 D3 L6), Lennon has hope. “They’re AC Milan and that name carries a lot of weight around world football, never mind European football,” he said. “But our players will be excited by it. It always brings the best out in them and hopefully we can maximise home advantage.”

Worth pointing out

• Ibrahimović will start the day on 57 UEFA club competition goals, 13th in the overall rankings. Two more would move him level with Henrik Larsson (Sweden’s all-time UEFA club competition top scorer) and Thierry Henry. The 39-year-old has had a stunning career, but the only European competition he has won is the 2009 UEFA Super Cup, during his time at Barcelona, injury having robbed him of a place in Manchester United's UEFA Europa League final squad in 2017.

• North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham both face Austrian sides on opening night: the Gunners are at Rapid Wien while Spurs host LASK. According to the UEFA club rankings, Arsenal are the top team in this season’s group stage; with a coefficient of 91.000 they are 11th in the continental standings at the moment. Tottenham, coefficient 85.000, are 14th overall.

Feyenoord coach Dick Advocaat
Feyenoord coach Dick AdvocaatANP Sport via Getty Images

• Already 73, Feyenoord boss Dick Advocaat could become the oldest coach to win a UEFA club competition if his side proceed all the way to this season’s final in Gdańsk. However, he may not get to keep the record long, because 75-year-old Dynamo Kyiv boss Mircea Lucescu could potentially win the UEFA Champions League. The current record holder is Raymond Goethals, who was 71 when his Marseille team won the 1992/93 UEFA Champions League.

• Granada visit PSV Eindhoven defending a 100% record in UEFA club competitions. Seventh in Spain last term, Diego Martínez’s men are making their continental debut this season and have won all three of their games so far, eliminating teams from Albania, Georgia and Malmö in qualifying.

Get the latest fixtures, standings and statistics here.