UEFA Europa League era begins

Just 43 days after FC Shakhtar Donetsk claimed the 38th and final edition of the UEFA Cup, this evening heralds the dawn of a new era as the inaugural UEFA Europa League gets under way.

Rosenborg are gearing up to take on Runavík
Rosenborg are gearing up to take on Runavík ©Getty Images

Just 43 days after FC Shakhtar Donetsk claimed the 38th and final edition of the UEFA Cup, this evening heralds the dawn of a new era as the inaugural UEFA Europa League gets under way.

Anorthosis challenge
The team that hoists the trophy aloft at the Arena Hamburg on 12 May will be the last side standing of 196, in all, who will contest this season's competition. The road begins this evening for 46 of them, with Cypriot side Anorthosis Famagusta FC among the most high-profile teams in action as they take on Luxembourg's UN Käerjéng 97.

Pedigree
Anorthosis are looking to build on last season's impressive UEFA Champions League group-stage campaign but they are far from the only side with pedigree in European football's élite competition. Rosenborg BK will call on the experience of eleven seasons in the competition as they travel across the Norwegian Sea to the Faroe Islands for their meeting with NSÍ Runavík while Swedish side Helsingborgs IF are preparing to take on FC MIKA of Armenia.

Crvena Zvezda await
That game will see Helsingborg's stadium, the Olympia, return to normal service following UEFA European Under-21 Championship, but for most clubs the attraction will be delving into the unknown. With the likes of FK Crvena Zvezda awaiting in the second qualifying round there is plenty of incentive for some of European club football's minnows. The winners of the tie between JK Trans Narva and NK Rudar Velenje will face the 1991 European champions, with the draw already having been made (to view it in full click here).

Competition format
Should any of the teams in action tonight go all the way they must negotiate 23 games, including the final. There are three qualifying rounds and the August play-offs to get through to even book a place in the group stage which, having been expanded to include 12 groups of four teams, sees each team play the other three sides on a home-and-away basis. The top two progress to the Round of 32 where, with the addition of the eight teams who finish in third position in their UEFA Champions League group, the competition reverts to home-and-away knockout rounds.

Top