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What to look out for in the UEFA Europa League group stage

Arsenal and Manchester United have an opportunity to rekindle some old rivalries, while Ferencváros have special motivation as they aim for the knockout phase.

 Manchester United's Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes have previous against Real Sociedad
Manchester United's Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes have previous against Real Sociedad Manchester United via Getty Imag

With the FIFA World Cup kicking off in November, the six UEFA Europa League group stage matchdays are being condensed into just nine weeks this autumn.

In this piece presented by Enterprise, we pick out some key talking points ahead of the most intense campaign yet.

When are the Europa League group stage games being played?

Matchday 1: 8 September 2022
Matchday 2: 15 September 2022
Matchday 3: 6 October 2022
Matchday 4: 13 October 2022
Matchday 5: 27 October 2022
Matchday 6: 3 November 2022

Ruud van Nistelrooy celebrates scoring for Manchester United against Arsenal in 2004
Ruud van Nistelrooy celebrates scoring for Manchester United against Arsenal in 2004Manchester United via Getty Images

Gunners paired with PSV
Arsenal were the first name out of the hat for the 2022/23 UEFA Europa League group stage draw, and there may have been a sharp intake of breath in north London when PSV Eindhoven joined them in Group A. PSV boss Ruud van Nistelrooy knows Arsenal well from his time as a striker at Manchester United.

Arsenal and PSV have met six time in the UEFA Champions League, and while those meetings have favoured the Gunners (W3 D2 L1), the most recent tie – in the 2006/07 first knockout round – went PSV's way, Brazilian centre-back Alex scoring at both ends at Arsenal Stadium as a 1-1 draw secured a 2-1 aggregate success.

2021 highlights: Real Sociedad 0-4 Man. United

United face Real Sociedad reunion
In their first European campaign under new coach Erik ten Hag, Manchester United will be enjoying some new experiences, meeting Moldovan champions Sheriff and Omonoia. The Cypriot side are coached by one-time Manchester City trainee Neil Lennon, who featured in a famous 1-0 Celtic win against United in 2006 during his time as a player.

San Sebastian-based Real Sociedad may present a bigger challenge on the field for the Red Devils, though the Basque side have failed to score in the sides' four competitive meetings to date (D2 L2). Most recently, the sides came together in the 2020/21 Europa League round of 32, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford among the scorers in United's first-leg 4-0 win in Turin that effectively settled the tie.

Mourinho on his European passion

Extra motivation for Ferencváros
With this season's final taking place in Budapest, Ferencváros have a unique opportunity to battle for a place in a major European decider in their home city, so expect the Green Eagles to show their talons as they take on Crvena zvezda, Monaco and Trabzonspor in Group H.

José Mourinho, meanwhile, will be hoping to add another trophy to his substantial collection after taking the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League as Roma boss last season. The 'Special One' won this competition as the UEFA Cup with Porto in 2002/03, and got his hands on the trophy again as Manchester United boss in 2016/17.

Where is the 2023 UEFA Europa League final being played?

The 2022/23 UEFA Europa League season will conclude at Budapest's Puskás Aréna on 31 May 2023.

Officially opened in 2019, the 65,000+ capacity ground stands on the site of the old Hungarian national team stadium, which was also named in honour of former Honvéd and Real Madrid forward Ferenc Puskás. The venue is located in the Zugló district of the Hungarian capital.